Off the Keyboard of Surly1 and Contrary
Originally published in the Doomstead Diner February 27, 2013
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.
From what I see and read on the national or internet level, plus what I find on a local level, much is made about “the death of Occupy” and a vigorous search for who killed it. Given that so much of my writing during the past year has been about Occupy and Occupy-related issues, I thought it might be useful to look back with the perspective of time and distance.
Occupy is an idea. Inspired by Zuccotti Park, Occupy groups sprang up all over the country like dandelion seedlings, sprouting in fertile ground from Maine to California. People often gathered under American flags in revulsion at political and economic outrages:
- Inversion of our national priorities, from preserving the welfare of the populace to one of Imperial War– an eternal war against the idea of a war on terrorism;
- Radically repressive legislation siphoning away the traditional rights of the American people;
- Disproportionate and immoral spending on a rapacious war machine that enriches a Nuclear Mafia at the expense of working people and ordinary taxpayers;
- Outrage at bailouts for “too big to fail” banks, while working people had their wealth siphoned away though upside down, non-negotiable mortgages, and subsequent illegal foreclosures, often abetted by a criminally complicit judiciary;
- Failure to prosecute financial crimes;
- Fury at a non-responsive legislature, wholly captive to multinational corporations and their armies of paid lobbyists, and utterly unresponsive to the will of the people who elected them.
Critics of Occupy like to say that Occupy had “no agenda.” If the above bullet points fail to represent an agenda, then I don’t know what an agenda is.
Contrary to popular belief, and as revealed by subsequent journalism, the majority of Occupiers were ordinary working people exercising their right to freedom of assembly. The movement encompassed the full range of opinion on the political spectrum, but most who came were employed at least one job, and many held college degrees. The prevailing press coverage attempted to portray Occupy as a gaggle of wild-eyed black-bloc anarchists or unemployed hippies, but that was simply untrue.
There were early successes: the “Move Your Money” campaign to get individuals to move accounts from TBTF banks to local banks or credit unions, gained the notice of financiers. The movement to repeal the “Citizens United” decision via a law or an amendment also gained traction.
Outrage came easy; doing something concrete about it was harder. The initial press treatment of the Occupy movement was to ignore it. While thousands of people gathered in Zuccotti Park, the mainstream media remained silent as a tomb. Eventually alternative media got the word out, and the MSM were obliged to cover the Occupy phenomenon, although the slant of the coverage was often predetermined. In our local case, a wholly negative spin was already affixed to the news peg before reporters were assigned. The usual spin occurred: reporters would duly interview Occupy spokespersons, snip a few seconds out of context, and tell a story to belittle the participants and minimize the importance of the fact that citizens had actually left the comfort of their homes to gather in protest. Alt media continued to tell a more objective story, albeit to little effect (and later, with the net result of a series pernicious legislative efforts designed to lock down and cripple the Internet, the better to control it.)
At the beginning, Occupy was studiously non-partisan. At the local level, in southeastern Virginia, we coalesced around issues, not faction. Nevertheless, fault lines soon appeared. Many shared a paranoia about being co-opted by political parties—by the Ron Paul presidential campaign, by Move On, by trade unions. This fear proved to be a practical impediment to those who desired to form coalitions with other groups who shared some of our same goals. Collaboration with these groups could have swollen our numbers and made us more effective, but it was not to be.
On the ground at Occupy camps, the very nature of governance (or non-governance) for a leaderless movement was also a challenge, The business of Occupy was transacted at a General Assembly, which employed specific rules to insure that everybody had the opportunity to participate, with particular care to include members of traditionally underrepresented groups. Meetings were led by a member of the “facilitation team,” which prepared an agenda, as well. The actual work of Occupy was to be carried out through workgroups, who were supposed to report as part of the General Assembly proceedings.
Work groups were where the rubber hit the road. The Community Outreach work group led a food and voter registration drives, the Technology workgroup stood up live streaming, wi-fi, solar panels for power, the Sanitation group for keeping the camp clean, the Kitchen work group solicited food donations from area businesses and individuals, the Security group kept watch at night and provided wake up calls, Direct Action planned events and carried out specific actions, an Arts Workgroup made signs, T shirts, music drum circles and the like.
Proposals for action could be entertained either from the floor or via a workgroup. Admittedly imperfect, the system, was easily susceptible to being hijacked by people with strong or difficult personalities. People unfairly accused members of the facilitation team of being a “secret oligarchy.” Others were frustrated by the consensus process and the amount of time it took to get to a decision. And then there were marginal personalities. In hindsight, it stands to reason that any movement opposed to the status quo would attract those with an odd and singular take on reality. The fates blessed our local group with a few folks whose grasp on reality was tenuous at best.
Nevertheless, during the period of time that Occupy Norfolk had its camp in Commercial Park, good work was done day and night. General Assemblies occurred nightly. Direct actions were planned and executed. One occupier’s father rented and had installed porta-potties for the camp. A Facebook page for Occupy Norfolk quickly grew to over 4400 supporters. Many young people, and older people, stayed in tents on-site. The Occupiers took in—and fed– homeless people as well. (I never stayed in the camp, but attended as many general assemblies as my schedule would allow, often with my daughter in tow.) Almost hourly people would show up with donations of food or needed supplies. And the camp grew and thrived, the occupants exhilarated with a sense of purpose.
What we didn’t know in those heady days was that the FBI and other domestic law enforcement agencies considered the Occupy movement “domestic terrorists”, and had sent agents out as infiltrators. In December of 2012, Naomi Wolf provided U.S. Government documents which revealed that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security had monitored Occupy Wall Street through its joint terrorism task force despite labeling it ‘a peaceful movement.’ And as Jeff Madrick has written in a recent article in Harper’s, “. . . it has become increasingly clear that OWS didn’t fizzle because its objectives were to muddled or its talk too abstract or its organization too chaotic. In fact, the movement was undone by a concerted government effort to undo it.”
Who could forget the OWS action on the Brooklyn Bridge, and the mass arrests that were employed as a strategy by the NYPD? Marchers were arrested, then offered conditional dismissals, which certainly had a chilling effect on their future activities. Police dragged out in 1845 law criminalizing the wearing of masks in public gatherings to justify the arrest of occupiers in bandannas. And who could forget the specter of the aptly named Anthony Bologna who pepper sprayed a group of young women without apparent provocation. You’ll recall the images of police officers in white shirts committing serial brutalities. The use of batons, pepper spray, and disproportionate force became commonplace in dealing with protesters. And the media blackout imposed by the NYPD and observed by the media prevented these outrages from being consumed by a sleeping public.
We had our own issues with agitators and infiltrators. In the early days, there were those exhorting others to acts of violence or anarchy during direct actions. The original organizers of Occupy Norfolk were levelheaded, peaceable young people who saw good relationships with the authorities as being essential to the viability of the movement. So agitators got no traction, and fell away. We knew infiltrators by their actions. In our local movement, one young man showed up virtually overnight, and insinuated himself into our live stream and technical operations, which subsequently failed at critical times. This was a man who, on Facebook and other social media, picked fights with many people (including me) and proved to be a disruptive pain in the ass. It remains an open question for me as to whose payroll he was on. Other people were disruptors of almost professional skill and training.
And they called me paranoid.
Protesters were forced out of Zuccotti Park on November 15, 2011. After several unsuccessful attempts to re-occupy the original location, protesters turned their focus to occupying banks, corporate headquarters, board meetings, college and university campuses. In November of 2011, a series of raids rousted many other Occupy camps, apparently at the direction of DHS. We read about conference calls involving mayors of large cities to deploy their forces accordingly. It was thus in Norfolk. Previously cordial relations with the local police and city authorities evaporated overnight, as our camp was to be raided, pre-dawn on November 6. Notice was provided to news stations, but none to the Occupiers. SWAT attired cops and city trash trucks descended upon the peaceful camp. A handful of occupiers were arrested on the sidewalk for “obstructing justice”, my daughter among them. All charged were subsequently cleared, but the fact remained that the accused had to actually be processed through the legal system like ground meat, to no real purpose, but significant aggravation and trouble to the accused, as well as legal expense on the part of the City.
One of the most disappointing aspects of being an occupier was the lack of serious outcry against police brutality and disproportionate use of force against peaceful demonstrators. As Jeff Madrick observed in the Harper’s article, “this reflects how little most Americans appreciate the place of protest as a catalyst of social and economic reform in our own history and throughout the world.” We forget our own history.
I don’t know how it went for other groups, but in the aftermath of the breakup of the camp, the local movement coalesced around different efforts. Several people tried to reboot Occupy Norfolk, and reconstitute it in some way, but those efforts eventually dissipated. Too many personalities, too many people with no respect for the processes of General Assembly and consensus. At the end of the day, it turns out that we all drink from the same poisoned cup of toxic individualism that inhabits the institutions we oppose.
Personality differences also played a huge part in assuring that the center could not hold. I remember one local thought and opinion leader, who openly campaigned to be the regional representative to something called the “99% Declaration,” which was to have a convention of delegates in Philadelphia on July 4th, 2012. She actively sought votes, received them, and was duly elected. When the time came to represent us, rather than discharge the obligation she sought, she decided to go to the annual gathering of Rainbow People in Tennessee, along with a few other souls. Now, I have no quarrel with Rainbow people, but that’s not Occupy as I understood it. But then, I am well known as a hypercritical crank whose watchword is, “Be who you say you are. Do what you say you are going to do.” And I have little patience with those who fail to do so.
While some of us were trying to organize and execute direct actions, there were others who announced, in a voice charged with self-righteousness, that they were going to “take it to the next level.” A subset of people then withdrew from the main group, dropped their work group activities, and took it to the next level with chanting, prayer circles, Mayan horoscopes, crystal worship, and other New Age pursuits in what they called a “Peace Garden.” Let me be clear: gardening is a wonderful thing; establishing and maintaining some sort of food independence from the Matrix remains a remarkable form of nonviolent protest. I admire it. I also respect and honor the amount of labor that it took to take the grounds of a largely abandoned house and turn it into a place of beauty and respite. What I decry is the hypocrisy resident in those loose style themselves peace workers while hastening to talk about others behind their backs. The immaturity was breathtaking.
And then there are the Facebook slackivists. As noted above, the local Occupy page had over 4400 followers. Within the last 2 weeks, I have been accused of being a “liberal–conservative–fascist–communist–statist” by an angry and confused young man whose sole contributions to Occupy included noisily announcing his bisexuality, calling attention to himself, proposing ideas for direct actions that failed consensus, and then loudly quitting in a huff when he failed to get his way. We learn that we are the ones responsible for the “failure” of Occupy, for the crime of being “aging liberal hippies.” (I have little defense against the charge, except to say that in the 60s and 70s I’m not sure I was cool enough to have been a hippie.) Facebook is a pernicious time sink, which allows people to engage in the very worst aspects of human nature in the guise of a quasi-anonymity Or at the very least with some emotional distance. (This is one of the reasons that I had given the gun-control controversy a wide berth on the Diner Facebook page. We no longer have any reasonable way to discuss these issues in our society.)
Locally, Occupy may be recalibrating, but nationally there have been successes. a number of us are in regular communication, and attended the Forward on Climate Change rally on February 17, along with 40,000 of our closest friends.
Many of us aligned with the movement to “Keep The Ban” on Uranium mining in Virginia, and were successful in getting the sponsor to pull his bill when it became apparent it would fail. The above mentioned campaign to “Move your Money” resulted in the movement of four billion dollars from TBTF banks. A $4B number will make even the most sated oligarch sit up and take notice. The “Move To Amend” effort to repeal the hated “Citizens United” decision has led to the introduction of legislation to change the direct purchase of elections by dark money groups. Even though Karl Rove was not successful in purchasing the Presidency for Mitt Romney, the threat remains. Occupy groups have helped via different tactics to delay or stop the illegal foreclosure of homes.
And perhaps the movement’s greatest success was Occupy Sandy, where Occupiers became the true first responders, bringing water, food, blankets, medicines and other supplies. One of Contrary’s favorite photos is of Occupiers feeding FEMA workers.
The grievances remain. The legal noose becomes tighter and the consequences for speaking out become more dear. As Judge Louis D Brandeis wrote in 1927, “those who won our independence believed that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty…” Wouldn’t it have been a wonderful thing if the passion and energy currently devoted to defense of “Second Amendment freedoms” (also known as the movement to keep gun manufacturers harmless from any interruption in their profits) could likewise been devoted to defense of, say the First and Fourth as they left the building?
As the means of redress of grievances becomes more narrow, the idea of Occupy remains ever more dangerous to the powers that be. Expect us.
From the Keyboard of Surly1
Originally published in Doomstead Diner
February 20, 2013
Discuss this article here in the Diner forum.
Contrary and I were proud to part of a large contingent of people form our area of Virginia to travel to the National Mall in DC for the Forward on Climate rally on Sunday. It was a long and extraordinary day.
The Forward on Climate rally, as it was billed by environmental groups Sierra Club and 350.org, called for President Obama to take immediate action on climate change, including blocking further construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Dozens of buses discharged rallyers from all across the country. The assembly massed on the National Mall, where speakers and musicians addressed the crowd. As they gathered for the march, participants listed to a variety of talks from luminaries, including 350.org President Bill McKibben, who tweeted, “Today was one of the best days of my life, because I saw the movement come together finally, big and diverse and gorgeous.”
“I waited a quarter century since I wrote the first book about all this stuff to see if we were going to fight,” McKibben told the crowd. “And today, I know we are going to fight. The most fateful battle in human history is finally joined, and we will fight it together.”
Van Jones was also on the dais. He urged the crowd to put pressure on the President: “This President has the power to achieve the single biggest carbon reduction ever, by holding our biggest carbon polluters – dirty power plants – accountable for what they dump into the air, Cleaning up this pollution and using more clean energy will provide jobs to thousands of Americans, save families real money when it comes to electricity bills and, most important, will make a real difference in our health and the health of our children.”
Other speakers included:
- The Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Hip Hop Caucus President and CEO
- Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director
- Van Jones, NRDC Trustee and President Rebuild the Dream
- Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Democratic Senator from Rhode Island
- Rosario Dawson
- Chief Jacqueline Thomas, native peoples chief and co-founder Yinka Dene Alliance
A chill and biting win gusted on the participants, who stood in the frozen mud of the Mall to brave the elements. Even huddling together like penguins didn’t make it any more bearable. Those in attendance later marched through the streets bearing placards, signs and musical instruments.
In an interesting turn, earlier that week Michael Bruce, President of the Sierra Club, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and others handcuffed themselves to the White House gates in an act of civil disobedience to bring attention to these interrelated issues. This marks the first time in the Sierra Club’s history that it has engaged in acts of civil disobedience.
During his turn at the microphone, Brune addressed the crowd: “Twenty years from now on President’s Day, people will want to know what the president did in the face of rising sea levels, record droughts and furious storms brought on by climate disruption . . .” “President Obama holds in his hand a pen and the power to deliver on his promise of hope for our children. Today, we are asking him to use that pen to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and ensure that this dirty, dangerous, export pipeline will never be built.”
Many in the crowd expressed by voice and sign that the pipeline would be stopped “by any means necessary.”
There was also much opposition to fracking, and much support for clean, alternative fuels. Neither Charles nor David Koch was spotted in the crowd. It was also a pleasure to meet Captain Ray Lewis, a true Occupy hero. I was able to thank him for his work.
It remains to be seen what will come of this effort. Stay tuned.
All images Surlyfoto.
HOW TWO GOOGLE CACHE RECORDS WITH PUBLISHED DATES PREDATING THE EVENTS AT SANDY HOOK SCHOOL CAME INTO BEING.
I will refer to 3 images in this document that show the anomalies in the Google cache records of The Arlington School’s News Items.
Document 1 is an image of a google cache record showing a published Date of Dec 10, 2012 which states Google recorded it on Dec 18, 2012.
The url below used to access the page imaged below – it now returns a 404 page error. Anyone that has copies of the image please keep it safe.
it could also be accessed from
by selecting to view the page.
It now returns….
Your search – inurl:http://www.arlingtonlocalschools.com/news/2012/12/10/talking-with-your-child-about … – did not match any documents. Reset search tools
DOCUMENT 2 below is an image of a google cache record showing a published Date of Dec 13, 2012 which states Google recorded it on Jan 12, 2013.
As of this writing, January 25, 6:21pm PT it is still available at the url below.
DOCUMENT 3 is an image of a google search return to a document Published Date of December 13, 2013 the same as in Document 2.
The link to this page has been disappeared by google as of today.
I am going to explain to you in this article how those document came to appear on the internet on the Published Dates shown, December 10, 2012 and December 13, 2012. I will also explain how the search return came into being.
In order to do this I am going to ask you to suspend disbelief so you can follow the timeline explaining the documents.
Events like 9/11 have demonstrated that news items about them appear almost instantly after such events. Many are complex documents that would be impossible to create in that short a period of time. If someone is preparing a false flag the most effective period to introduce your desired interpretation of the event is immediately after the event while people are still in shock. In order to meet a tight deadline there are many trusted people working in the background preparing documents and then sitting and waiting to pull the trigger and make them public the moment the event is planned to occur. These people are scattered all over and working off their own script with a time to make their information public.
CMI (Crisis Management Inc) which had author permissions on The Arlington School Website as a contractor to upload Their material to the website as needed. They could upload, create links to their material, and publish news announcements all from their own offices without anyone from the School being involved.
The School shootings that took place in sandy Hook on December 14, 2012, were originally planned to happen on December 10, 2012.
If you check on a calendar you will see Dec 10 was a Monday and a school day so the event could have been planned for that date.
DECEMBER 10, 2012
Everyone involved with media media material had the material prepared referring to the Date Dec 10, 2012.
On December 10, 2012 someone at CMI was waiting to pull the trigger and publish the news item (Document 1) and related documents such as the pdf the news item announces.
For some reason the event was called off at the last moment.
Everyone planned to submit material was frantically called to NOT submit their material.
The message for some reason didn’t get through to CMI in time and they submitted the pdf, created the link to it, and published the news item shown in Document 1 .
The other anomalous documents predating Dec 14, 2012 that appeared all over the internet originated the same way.
Because of a technicality (RSS Feed) that is explained by the developer of the program that manages the Arlington Schools site a record of the document immediately left the site and was submitted to people hooked up to the feed as well as to google which published the item for availability in their search engine. (see document 3)
Google took the opportunity while going to the site to capture the thumbnail of the page seen on the right of document 2 to also put it into their cache database.
In the Technical Discuss Thread at http://fellowshipofminds.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/sandy-hook-phony-documents-open-thread/#comment-164225
Jeremy the developer of the software SpireCMS which the School uses to manage their website stated
“JEREMY… When a news item is created in our system, it is pushed out via an RSS feed and, Google has it indexed usually under 24 hours.”
The above means the article could be found on the google search engine on that date and also in their cache shown in Document 1.
The search record was scrubbed by google for this Dec 10, 2012 item, but events that took place on Dec 13, 2012 caused an identical entry to be made only with a published date of December 13th. I’m not sure why it wasn’t scrubbed by Google before today. It is shown in (document 3)
DECEMBER 13, 2012
The Sandy Hook Shooting event was rescheduled to this date and was again scrubbed. It Was a Thursday, also a viable date.
It was again scrubbed for some reason.
CMI again did not get the word to not publish in time.
They published the news item again but this time with a published Date of Dec 13, 2012 causing another RSS submission creating (document 3) and also a second cache record (document 2)
Jeremy stated above “Google has it indexed usually under 24 hours” which means (document 1) would originally have shown either “as it appeared on 10 Dec 2012 or possibly 11 Dec 2012.”
The December 13, 2012 (document 2) would originally have shown either “as it appeared on 13 Dec 2012 or possibly 14 Dec 2012.”
No one in the loop realized there was an RSS feed on the news items at Arlington School and that the 2 pages (document 1 &2) where recorded in the google cache.
AFTER DECEMBER 14
Some bright internet users discovered the cache records predating the actual events and all hell broke loose.
The people behind the false flag frantically tried to cover up these incriminating cache records and the search return.
For technical reasons too complex to explain here it was impossible to erase the records.
Publicly removing the cache document after they were found would also be suspicious.
As a temporary fix someone authorized by google edited the records as below.
(Document 1) which first read “as it appeared on 10 Dec 2012 or possibly 11 Dec 2012 was changed to read 18 Dec 2012.”, a date after the events of December 14th. This document was still suspicious but at least is showed it was recorded after the event it announced.
(Document 2) which first read “as it appeared on 13 Dec 2012 was changed to read “as it appeared on 12 Jan 2013.”, a date after the events of December 14th. This document was still suspicious but at least is showed it was recorded after the event it announced.
To make these changes at google would take no more than about two minutes. All that needed to be done is to select the records in the database and edit the field that holds the date google recorded the record.
JANUARY 25 2013
Today google decided that the evidence implicating them in these events very getting to dangerous to leave available and removed them from public view even though that looks very suspicious.
This happened because I stated publicly that it is impossible for a document published with an RSS feed request to google could take 30 days as shown in (Document 2) and 8 days as shown in (Document 1) after the developer publicly stated at http://fellowshipofminds.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/sandy-hook-phony-documents-open-thread/#comment-164225
“JEREMY… When a news item is created in our system, it is pushed out via an RSS feed and, Google has it indexed usually under 24 hours.”
There is an enormous amount of corroborating evidence that I described before at Fellowship of the Minds.
If you find the information above compelling enough to look further, and if I survive to tell about it, this discussion will be continued.
That google is currently scrubbing the evidence does not bode well for those publicly explaining it. Although google can hide the incriminating evidence from the public, they cannot remove the internal traces from their servers. We who made screencaptures and didn’t clear our browser histories have evidence they existed to the last date we accessed it. Guard that information well.
I am going to stop here to let you consider what I said.
Off the keyboard of Anthony Cartalucci
Published on Land Destroyer on November 26, 2012
Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner
We are not helpless observers. If we don’t like what we see everyday when we read the news, now is the time to commit our intellect and our own two hands to building the future we would rather see – not merely pawning off this great responsibly to “elected representatives” who habitually defy our will and purposefully work against our best interests. The following article was written as one of the first exclusive entries for LocalOrg. If you have solutions or success stories you would like to see researched and covered, e-mail me at email@example.com.
November 26, 2012 (LocalOrg) – Local people know best what’s going on on a local level. Federal agencies busy appropriating budgets and following protocol will never be able to compete against competent, well-organized local networks.
When Hurricane Sandy swept New York City earlier this month, people waited for Red Cross and FEMA to respond, seemingly under the impression that the right and responsibility to react to a disaster laid solely in the hands of the state. When it became clear that the urgent response needed was never coming, people who were already organized as part of ongoing anti-corporate and banking protests used their infrastructure to begin relieving affected people.
The Black Agenda Report’s article, “The Hurricane and the Failed State,” notes that:
So-called advanced nations are never so advanced that they can stand up to the forces of nature. New York and New Jersey are just the latest examples of seemingly safe and “developed” places which were laid low by a change in the weather. Then again, things outside of human control can expose what was already present but kept hidden. Hurricane Sandy showed us that our society is in reality, not advanced at all.
After the hurricane struck the east coast, it was clear that the United States is nothing more than a failed state with a big military and a strong currency. There is nothing in place to help the masses of citizens in times of crisis. That is because the system isn’t meant to help them. It is meant to help certain individuals and corporations, and everyone else is on their own.
The article continued:
The charitable organization most people were directed to was the Red Cross. That same Red Cross did nothing after receiving millions of dollars in donations during hurricane Katrina, yet is still forced down Americans’ throats as the only solution in every catastrophe. The borough president of Staten Island, righteously angry about Red Cross inaction, used the occasion of a press conference to tell the public to stop giving them money.
While the Red Cross collected more than $23 million dollars during a celebrity telethon but did nothing with the money, Occupy Sandy had no money yet managed to provide food, clothing and medical care to the hardest hit neighborhoods. The Occupy teams pumped water from damaged homes and even gave direction to the National Guard and FEMA teams. The least effective group got all the cash, but Occupy did the real work without help from the public or private sector.
The article concludes by stating:
The new lessons are the same as the old. Activism without acquiescence to political power can succeed in bringing about tremendous change. There will always be catastrophes but we should not expect a failed system to save us from them.
The conclusion is particularly meaningful and should remind us all that ultimately we ourselves are the only ones who truly have our own best interests at heart – and the interests of our friends, families, and neighbors.
If ever a sentiment has been qualified by a real world example, the community response marshaled by the underfunded, underrated Occupy Sandy movement – working in the shadow of multi-million dollar federal agencies and international organizations – is it. Occupy Sandy’s advantage was that despite the little resources they had, their intentions were genuine, their purpose was both urgent and personal, and the stakes were a community they themselves must live in and the benefits of getting it back up and running again as quickly as possible.
Whatever one may blame Hurricane Sandy on, or what the political beliefs are of Occupy Sandy may be, when the moment of truth came, they put politics aside, and successfully utilized pragmatism to solve urgent and overwhelming problems.
Whatever your organization may be, coming up with your own local contingency plans, as well as studying the successes of movements like Occupy Sandy, should become a priority. Because whatever the constant din of reassuring federal propaganda may have you believe, from New Orleans to New York, the real message is clear – get a plan, get a program, and do it yourself or it won’t get done.
Off the Surly keyboard
Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner
A Year of Occupy
The following article is a look back at a Year of Occupy from someone who has been an active participant. While noting the history of the movement in a rough way, it draws primarily upon the writer’s firsthand experience with the local manifestations of Occupy. The local movement started in a series of meetings last September in Norfolk, VA, and burst into full bloom on October 6 of last year. What remains of the local group is planning an anniversary event for October 6 of this year. Any omissions, mischaracterizations, mis-statement of facts, bowdlerizations, calumnies, disinformation or misdemeanors are the responsibility of the author alone, who is striving mightily herein to NOT live up to his nom-de-plume.
“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness, and our ability to tell our own stories…” – ~Arundhati Roy
Arab Spring, American Fall
It will be a year ago this weekend that a group called Occupy Wall Street made an encampment at Zuccotti Park and captured the imagination of the world. The largest collective national protest in 40 years inspired other Occupy camps to spring up like mushrooms after a summer rain across the FSA in imitation and tribute. Many were inspired by visitors to Zuccotti, who came like pilgrims to look, march, participate, and understand. In the space of just a few weeks the repressed and frustrated found their voice, and expressed it in “mad as hell” Howard Beale moments across the country.
Also inspired in part by Egyptian mass protests in Tahrir Square, Occupy protesters put forward the main issues of social and economic inequality, corporate greed, corruption and the undue influence of corporations on government—particularly from the financial services sector. The OWS slogan, “We are the 99%,” addresses the growing income inequality and wealth distribution in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population. Lack of justice on the part of Justice Departments was also an issue, as the Feds failed to prosecute those who had brought about a global crisis of monetary insolvency. (Far better, it would seem, for the attorney general to focus on free speech demonstrators and whistleblowers.)
Protesters were forced out of Zuccotti Park on November 15, 2011, with a coordinated raid on other Occupy camps following on shortly thereafter. While there have been unsuccessful attempts to re-occupy the original location, protesters have turned their focus on occupying banks, corporate headquarters, board meetings, college and university campuses, along with Wall Street itself.
So what has Occupy achieved?
Banks Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out
It’s fair to say that occupy has changed the conversation. Within the space of a year, we tend to forget how in a country deeply resistant to notions of class, where everyone is” middle class”, the development of any sort of class consciousness is quite remarkable. Most Americans find it difficult to stomach the sight of the 1% being bailed out and then earning obscene profits while they, or their family, friends, and neighbors, are looking for work without success.
The escalating income inequality evident from the 30 year class war begun under the Reagan Administration against the working people of the US reached its apex at the presence of Occupy. Phrases like “The 99%,” “the 1%,” changed the national conversation and the prevailing narrative forever. Occupy’s mission was to expose how the 1% are controlling our fates through the financialization of all aspects of economic and political life. The evidence is abundant: the middle class is drowning in loans, student debt, fraudulent mortgages, and a democracy being sold to the highest bidder, all while our environment is turned into yet another toxic asset, and those assets which we hold in common are sold off to the highest bidder as well.
November saw a coordinated attack on camps all across the country. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan was one who admitted to being on the phone with the Department of Homeland Security. It seems clear that Homeland Security orchestrated a coordinated set of attacks led locally by increasingly militarized local police departments. Armed with budgets swollen by several years of homeland security grants coupled with outright gifts of military and paramilitary gear, local police decided to move on Occupy encampments such as the one in Norfolk, clad in full riot gear and tearing down tents with paramilitary zeal. What had been cordial relations between occupiers and the police quickly became hostile in an astonishing fashion.
Occupiers were arrested; trumped up charges brought, later dismissed in court.. As with the attack on Zuccotti, the assaults on the camps were often staged at hours where they would attract the least attention. And where the local press ran a story, the thrust of the story was predictably on the side of “take a bath and get a job.”
What is interesting is the timing of these attacks on the camps. During the month of October, as camps were beginning across the country, much of the effort concentrated on a quotation mark move your money” effort, asking people to move their accounts from the large banks to smaller, community banks or credit unions. The move your money day was November 6. By some estimates Bank of America lost $4 billion of deposits in the month of October as a result of this effort. More people moved gtheir bank accounts in the month of October than had moved in all of 2010. Shortly afterwards that the coordinated assault on the camps began.
These attacks created new memes. New York Mayor Bloomberg got to claim that he controlled his” own private army”, the 7th largest in the world.
And in another show of disproportionate force on the West coast, Lieut. John Pike became famous as “pepper spray man” as he was photographed employing blinding pepper spray on sitting, peaceful protesters at the University of California Davis. (In one small scrap of justice, it should be noted that Lieut. Pike and UC Davis have parted company as of this past summer.)
Much as been made about Occupy being non-political. The easy peg on which to hang Occupy is as the lefty counterpart to the Tea Party. Yet Occupy has never been embraced by the Democrats, and with good reason. Most Occupiers distrust Democrats as fully as they do Republicans.
Given the Democratic party’s reliance on campaign contributions from the very sources the Occupy movement opposed, along with its support of bailouts for the financial sector, the Dems were never going to give their full backing to the Occupy movement unless the movement became a viable force politically. Any astute political observer knew the Democratic establishment would not work to achieve the goals of the Occupy movement, particularly at the national level. Hillary Rodham Clinton raised nearly $20 million from Wall Street when she was a senator. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has received more than $5 million from the same sources since 2007, and Barack Obama received more than $15 million from the investment industry during the 2008 election cycle. This year, the Democratic National Committee has raised more than $10 million from the securities and investment community, the same people against which Occupy takes to the streets.
Some wanted the Occupy movement needed to put forth its own slate of candidates in primaries and local races — as the tea party began doing in 2008 when it became disillusioned with Republicans — to either replace the Democrats who wouldn’t support their positions or to force incumbent Democrats to adopt the views of the movement. Of course the teahadis were subsidized by the Koch Brothers and other reactionaries as useful minions able to advance their far-right agenda.
Of course, the Occupy movement could not offer its own candidates or alternatives because it never offered a clear, coherent vision or plan of action. Those who wished to turn Occupy into a co-optable political movement asserted that abstract ideas and clever slogans had to give way to concrete proposals and electoral agendas.
Like the people at the heart of the Egyptian revolution, those spearheading the Occupy movement were the youth, the intellectuals and academics, people with lofty ideals but with little practical experience in governing. Without a mechanism to turn ideals into policy, many would say Occupy is simply spinning its wheels.
A Winter of Discontent
The violent crackdown on peaceful dissent, and the relative brutality of police tactics, especially when confronted with peaceful protesters, became an issue of concern for Occupiers as much as it was ignored in the mainstream media. The mainstream media had hung Occupy on the news peg of the “black bloc anarchists,” whose presence among occupiers is almost always synonymous with infiltrators, either of the Homeland Security or the local police variety. (It became an article of faith among our local Occupy groups that anybody exhorting other people to violence head de facto identified himself as an infiltrator, pink hair or not. And, although I can’t prove this, I believe to this day that our local Occupies were rotten with them.)
The escalating criminalization of dissent has gone hand-in-hand with an increasingly ubiquitous surveillance society. In the wake of the PATRIOT act, we have become complacent, and have watched silently as cameras become ubiquitous at the same time that our rights to privacy are diminished. Even the recent case in which a New York judge has ruled that Twitter must give the court three months worth of tweets from a user in a pending case involving an Occupy Wall Street protester is yet another chilling trend. The freedom for corporations to act as persons increases, while the freedom for private individuals to act likewise diminishes. And the power of government to abet the aims of corporations, while inhibiting the aims of individuals continues unchecked.
As Aaron Cynic has said,
Plenty of people might dismiss connecting these requests and other instances that highlight targeted suppression of dissent as mere paranoia. Such tactics have a chilling effect on legitimate dissent, and the efforts by multiple law enforcement agencies to question, detain and arrest activists of varying stripes points to a much more dangerous world. More than a decade ago, former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said that when it came to dissent in troubled times, Americans should “watch what they say and what they do.” Rhetoric like Fleischer’s and quick quips today from politicians like “if you’re not doing anything illegal, you shouldn’t be worried” shows an increasing acceptance of the criminalization of dissent, and points towards a disturbing future.
Such rhetoric is now become the norm.
It in spite of the increased emphasis on security Occupy groups remained active in supporting a variety of demonstrations and movements. Throughout the winter and early spring, our local groups supported actions protesting NDAA, the prospect of war with Iran, staged a very successful Mayday action in coordination with many other Occupy groups throughout the country, and had a very successful statewide General Assembly in Roanoke. A dedicated and committed core of volunteers kept the flame alive over months.
Circular firing squad
Occupy polity is messy. Decisions in this leaderless organization are made by the Gen. assembly which consists of all those people who identify with the local occupy organization, who gather together to share announcements, to deliberate on proposals initiated by workgroups, and to otherwise mount the virtual soapbox and share what is on their hearts. A general assembly is not a Rotary breakfast. The advantages of the leaderless group are obvious: it is far less easy to co-opt or decapitate. On the other hand, it is extremely difficult to get things done. One or a few individuals with agendas can derail the work of the group.
There is also a great deal of concern about co-optation. During this past summer we saw the schism between OWS and the 99% Declaration, which was another group that sprung up from OWS but split with them along fault lines of concern. The Adbusters people, for example, attacked the 99% Declaration as the product of “the same cabal of old world thinkers who blunted the possibility of revolution for decades.” Not surprisingly, the 99% Declaration was led by a former lawyer for Goldman Sachs. It’s ironic that having given birth to the notion of “the 99%,” Occupy finds subsequent movements eager to use the 99% moniker and elbow the originators out of the way, often to achieve political objectives. The truth is that many occupiers are disgusted with both political parties, including this writer. I hold with Gore Vidal who, in 1970, observed that “the Democrats and Republicans are the left and right wings of the Property Party.”
What has happened locally, especially in Norfolk, is that many of the original founders of the local Occupy movement, many of whom were Ron Paul libertarians, fell away from the movement, either from disaffection with what seemed to them to be a progressive left agenda, or for Occupy’s refusal to endorse any party or candidate. In any event, those people are gone and their energy is missed.
Without camps around which to coalesce, the survival of local Occupies becomes challenging. It is made even more so by the impact of marginal personalities, group dysfunction, selfishness, jealousies, and gossip, and all of the other many human frailties to which most of us are all too prone. Locally, one person who is a garden-variety bully, has disrupted the proceedings of two Occupy groups (and is now working on a third) with lurid tales of intrigue, lost love, and defamation of character. Moreover, in an organization that resists being an organization, and which behaves far more like an affinity group, affinities get strained by gossip, whispering campaigns, he-said-she-said, and the sort of thing one might have thought best left behind in high school.
On a personal note, I can be depended upon to utter one phrase in most situations: “Be who you say you are; do what you say you’re going to do.” It is both galling and frustrating to have the work of a group be hijacked by somebody’s failure to execute. But what do we do, dock their pay?
The future of Occupy depends solely upon the ability of local groups to generate and maintain enthusiasm for the cause. As noted above, it is very difficult to sustain enthusiasm in the absence of a campsite. Many municipalities have gone out of their way to make it difficult for occupied groups to camp by passing ordinances restricting camping within city limits, etc.
Our colleagues in Occupy Roanoke have a different and productive example. They enjoy good relations with the local police and are in good odor with the local press. They are well funded, fully fuctional, and smart.
One of the ongoing conundrums of Occupy is that in order to realize “a better world is possible,” we have to behave in different ways, and we are ill trained to do so. Few have the vision and discipline necessary to set aside personal agenda and ego. Raised in a culture of craven materialism, where every transaction and relationship is financialized, in a culture that elevates the Cult of the Individual, “competition” is normal. We are marinated in the values we wish to change. It is cooperation, and self-sacrifice, and putting the other first, that is essential. Some might call it servant leadership. A communitarian spirit is a concept so alien and foreign to most of us that it might as well be Martian.
As Thom Hartmann has said in The Last Days of Ancient Sunlight, and in a different context, “We need new stories.”
It may be that the Occupy moment has come and gone. The changes in the prevailing economic narrative remain. What we do about them is anybody’s guess, but in an era where the PATRIOT act has been amplified by the National Defense Authorization Act, enhanced crackdowns on whistleblowers and troublemakers, greatly enhanced surveillance, the use of drones, a militarized police, and at this writing, a Middle East in flames, it remains to be seen what happens next.
For my part, I can say that as a result of Occupy, I have met some of the finest and most remarkable people who it has ever been my pleasure to meet. I have built associations with other activists working on causes which for which we share a commitment. And in a quite unforeseen development, I even met the woman with whom I now share a home and a life, which came as an unbidden blessing.
So much good has come from Occupy, and whatever good that may yet come will be a result of the collective effort of all of us. Herein lies the challenge:
“The obvious point is that most social activists look constantly to the state for solutions to social problems. This point bears labouring, because the orientation of most social action groups tends to reinforce state power. This applies to most antiwar action too. Many of the goals and methods of peace movements have been oriented around action by the state, such as appealing to state elites and advocating neutralism and unilateralism. Indeed, peace movements spend a lot of effort debating which demand to make on the state: nuclear freeze, unilateral or multilateral disarmament, nuclear-free zones, or removal of military bases. By appealing to the state, activists indirectly strengthen the roots of many social problems, the problem of war in particular…” ~ Brian Martin, ‘Uprooting War’
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My weekend plans to check out a potential doomstead having blown up, I found myself on Saturday night at a birthday party for a young Occupier who just turned 30. This is a young man from a neighboring Occupy group who had proven himself to be very intelligent: whenever he opened his mouth, he generally had something to say which was Right. On. Point. So I was happy to be able to attend, and looked forward to spending some time with him and his friends.
His apartment and the area outside was filled with young people, all of them 20- or 30- somethings. (My lady friend and I were the oldest people in attendance, by several decades.) After a long, protracted and frustrating search, the birthday celebrant finds himself working at a restaurant, learning a trade, and diligent in his cooperation with the owner to try to make that business profitable. He is also wise enough to see the self-interest of learning everything he can right now, the better to gain knowledge to apply to his own career, and perhaps a restaurant of his own someday. So he is doing all right, and on his 30th, finds that he has some lift under his wings.
Everywhere within were the faces of earnest, fresh-faced people, full of life and exuberance and party spirits, friendly and willing to engage in conversation. The crazy kid who had recently passed a kidney stone (!), who became the resident paparazzi, taking pictures of everybody with great good humor; the intense redhead in the kitchen, engaged in thoughtful conversation, even with an old guy; the sincere young politico, whose lefty rant made my ears perk up; charming young women in attractive dress and better good humor . . . The sorts of faces that two generations ago I might have encountered at any college party. Some of these young people had completed or attended college, including the local community college. Many others had not.
Many of these young people in attendance were employed sketchily, if at all, in one of a variety of service level jobs. This was not a gaggle of young professionals, secure in their future prospects, educations paid for and themselves well on their way to professions laden with status and benefits. Rather, this was a group of young people who the captains of our economy forgot—working class people. People who grew up in circumstances much like my own.
When I saw last night was a gaggle of thirty-odd young people in various stages of coping with an economy in which all of the money had been sucked away.
Were both of us thirty years younger, what has occurred to these folks would have occurred to us as well. What became clear to us is that we had a ringside seat for the formation of an entire generation denied the expectation of a functional middle-class lifestyle, the first generation in the history of this country without a reasonable expectation of doing better than their parents.
IN 1992, many of us chortled at H. Ross Perot in the TV debates, and wondered what he meant when he mentioned the “giant sucking sound” that NAFTA would create as North American jobs would be whisked to the maquilidoras. Now, twenty years later, we know what he meant. And our children are paying the price for our inattention and selfishness.
Many of us are old enough to remember when it was possible for working-class kids, particular those without a higher education, to go to work, get a job, and make a life for themselves. Own a house, own a car, to maybe own a vacation home or a boat—none of that was beyond the reach of a factory worker making a decent wage. For the young people in attendance at this party last night, the new normal looks like this: part-time work, topping out at 35 hours per week, so as to not incur the obligation of paying for benefits, no health insurance, living either at home, or in an apartment with several other people to share expenses, no car, and an uncertain future.
Yet these exuberant partygoers were vibrant, attractive full of life, and intent on having a good time in the face of all. There is nothing wrong with their work ethic or attitudes. Here’s one example:
One young woman told her story of working two jobs to be able to go to aesthetician school, so that she could work in a shop, and potentially have her own shop someday. She successfully completed the course of study, and began work at what she called her “dream job.” Then she ran afoul of The Law. I did not get the entire story, and did not push for it, but she apparently incurred a fine for a motor vehicle infraction that she could not pay, and lost her license. The next day, driving without a license (yes, I know), at a red light, a cop ran her plates and discovered that fact. The local magistrate who heard her case was not amused, and with little empathy and less humor remanded her to a week in jail. Which spelled the end of that “dream job.” Thus her employment and opportunity at a job she really loved came to grief, and now she works as a waitress at an IHOP, ostensibly to find another way to climb the career ladder.
Barbara Ehrenreich covered some of this ground in her book, “Nickel and Dimed- On (Not) Getting By in America” in which she went undercover as a low wage worker to find out how non-skilled workers make ends meet. The experiment took place in Florida, Maine, and Minnesota, with Ehrenreich finding a job and lodgings in each location. In each location, Ehrenreich worked full time and lived only off the amount of money earned in those low-wage jobs. Her goal was to determine whether or not she could both live off the money earned and have enough money at the end of the month to pay the next month’s rent. One of the things Ehrenreich learned is how easy it is to get in serious trouble with the law because you don’t have a whole lot of money.
In a subsequent interview, Ehrenreich said, “It is now easy to get into serious trouble with the law because you don’t have much money – and then to get poorer and poorer because you get in serious trouble with the law. The classic example would be if you have a broken headlight on your car, but you can’t fix it because that would cost over $100. So you get stopped by the police, and you get a fine of maybe $100 or $200. If you could have paid that, you could have fixed the damn light! Now you have this debt to the government. If you don’t pay that, you begin to be in really big trouble that just builds and builds. More fines and fees are added, and they will all accumulate interest too. At some point, if you haven’t paid, you are very likely to have a warrant out for your arrest.”
While some of us might look down the nose of a young person who continues to drive without a license, I find that our very system of laws tends to concentrate on further disadvantaging the last and the least among us. Not for nothing are our private for profit prisons guaranteed a 90 per cent occupancy by the states that contract with them, and are they filled with people guilty of victimless crimes.
Several partygoers had either attended college without completion, accumulating student loans with little prospect of paying them off in the near term, or have graduated from college, with even more loans trailing along behind, and were unable to find a job by which to launch a career. An astonishing number of these thirtysomethings were living back at home, and for their trouble were hearing from their parents, “Why don’t you show some initiative and go out and get a job?” I assume these parents have apparently have not opened a newspaper in the last 20 years.
After the party, I discussed some of these issues with my friend. She recalled her own experience at the age of 19 wondering, “What should do with my life? How might I make my way? What career should I choose?” And at least she perceived herself as having the opportunity to choose from among a range of options, as did I with the benefit of a university education, and a notion of my chosen field.
So what do we have to show for the forty year class war and dismantling of American manufacturing? We have created a generation without recourse to higher education as a practical matter, because children of the working class have as their only option to finance said education the assumption of massive debt. And assuming you have the risk tolerance to assume said debt, that is a huge bet placed against the prospect of an uncertain future of finding employment in their chosen field. Whether you do or not, the debt, the ruinous debt, remains, and cannot be discharged, apparently even by bankruptcy. What a system.
So what do the facts say? This from May 2010:
In 2007, 5.4 percent of college graduates under the age of 25 were unemployed; the official rate is now 9.0 percent. The number of unemployed high school graduates jumped from 12 percent in 2007 to 22.5 percent. Over this three-year period, the youth labor force (workers age 16 to 24) has contracted by 1.1 million workers, the report found, and an additional 1.2 million more “have become disconnected from both formal schooling and work.”
This 5 percent drop represents the largest contraction for any age group in the population. “For the class of 2010,” the report states, “it will be one of the worst years to graduate high school or college since at least 1983 and possibly the worst since the end of World War II.”
Indeed, the entire US workforce faces one of the toughest job markets in the post-World War II era. Official unemployment currently stands at 9.5 percent, and most economists predict that these high levels will persist for years to come. As in countless countries in Europe and around the world, the ruling class of the US has attempted to avert financial crisis from the stock markets and the banks onto the backs of the working class, both through government debt and through the imposition of social austerity measures.
Such measures, however, put deflationary pressures on economies throughout the globe, increasing the likelihood of a further turn in the downwardly spiraling global economy. This scenario presents the very real possibility that current US unemployment levels, far from improving, are situated to increase, perhaps drastically, in the near future.
Amid this grim economic atmosphere, young workers are compelled to take on gargantuan levels of student debt, and are confronted by the complete absence of even the threadbare social safety net available to other demographics.
Students graduating with a bachelor’s degree from public four-year institutions owe on average $19,535. Undergraduates completing degrees at private four-year institutions now owe, on average, $25,350. In comparison, these same figures in the 2000-2001 academic year were $14,916 and $16,906 respectively.
Most students now finish their degrees in six years, or not at all, due in large part to the burden of carrying a full workload while pursuing their education.
Not surprisingly, a surprisingly large number of these young people are completely disaffected with the consumerist, happy motoring lifestyle, which offers them little aside from low-level service jobs, and are pursuing ways of living that are more sustainable and less contributive to the giant capitalist bloodsucking wealth machine.
As I spoke with these folks and collected their stories, it also occurred to me that a generation without little hope and fewer prospects could be easily swayed to vote for somebody who offers both. Were I in their shoes, it would be easy to listen to blandishments of a Man on Horseback. Recently Endisnigh published some comments in the Forum from Craig Dilworth, among which these stood out:
“As regards free trade, Douthwaite points out that international free trade inescapably leads to a levelling down. It means that salaries and wages will tend to converge at Third World levels, and social security provisions in industrial countries will continue to be cut, since these are an overhead that economies cannot bear if they are to compete successfully with countries without them. Only the owners of the surviving transnational companies and of natural resources will escape the general impoverishment. Already the islands of prosperity are growing steadily smaller in an otherwise sick, dilapidated and hungry world. “
In the excitement over the unfolding of his scientific and technical powers, modern man has built a system of production that ravishes nature and a type of society that mutilates man. If only there were more and more wealth, everything else, it is thought, would fall into place. Money is considered to be all-powerful; if it could not actually buy non-material values, such as justice, harmony, beauty or even health, it could circumvent the need for them or compensate for their loss. The development of production and the acquisition of wealth have thus become the highest goals of the modern world in relation to which all other goals, no matter how much lip-service may still be paid to them, have come to take second place. The highest goals require no justification; all secondary goals have finally to justify themselves in terms of the service their attainment renders to the attainment of the highest. This is the philosophy of [ social ] materialism, and it is this philosophy – or metaphysic – which is now being challenged by events.
Dilworth (2010-03-12). Too Smart for our Own Good (p. 400 – 405). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.
So this coming generation may be primed and ready for a man on horseback, offering to lead them to a promised land, the paving stones of which ostensibly come from the clawback of health benefits, pensions, Social Security, and other attributes of the “nanny state” that we use to characterize as the American dream, and which, under the influence of far too much Tea, we now call “socialism.”
Because of Wall Street bailouts, the Bush tax cuts, various scams and other welfare for the rich, the money that used to employ people has been sucked out of the economy. Money is now scant for education, for job creation, training or for social services for unemployed young Americans. Any funding for basic social spending is predicated on austerity, on gutting the living standards of American workers and opening such areas as education, health services and infrastructure to further privatization and profit-taking at the expense of the public.
And we call this policy. It is a crime against the next generation. And this, among other reasons, is why I Occupy.
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You may be wondering what Occupy is up to lately. Depending upon who you ask, you will get a different story. Realizing that the movement needed some cohesion, some folks took it upon themselves to plan a national gathering/meeting/groupthink to figure out what to do.
Like most things Occupy, that effort splintered into a couple of factions, neither of which obtained the desired outcome.
This post is assembled form such reports as I have been able to cadge from the web and so is chock full of second and third-hand information. Those who had originally planned to go from our groups, decided, much like Dick Cheney re Vietnam, that they had “other priorities.” As the tender of the Occupy desk for DD, I determined I should assemble this report, and try to strip as much “inside baseball” from it as possible. If you REALLY want to know, say, how the Occupy “Nat-Gat” reached consensus for its priorities, please plunder their website, where the process is explicated in full, mind-numbing glory.
Two competing groups met in Philadelphia over the fourth of July. One, the Occupy National Gathering, purported to be the “official” Occupy gathering and created some visioning as well as a report. A list of priorities was created through a collective visioning process developed by members of the National Gathering Working Group and its facilitation/visioning subgroup.
Over 200 people participated. It is important to remember that participants were asked about “vision,” not strategy or tactics. A vision points to the “what,” not the “how.” In this movement – like many others through history – we often declare: “another world is possible.” In the document below, ONG began to provide answers to the obvious follow-up question, “but what will this new world look like?”
-The Priorities of the National Gathering Working Group, as determined by those who participated in the National Gathering Visioning Process on July 4th, 2012. The number in front indicates the number of votes that each priority received:
203 clean water, air, and food
186 free education for all
158 no war
116 sustainable human society
110 a culture of direct democracy
108 free universal healthcare
106 local food production, community gardens, & permaculture agriculture
104 economic equality
95 localized economies
93 a world where basic needs are met
92 military-industrial complex destroyed; military spending slashed
According to the organizers, this list is only a beginning– a survey reflecting the attitudes and beliefs of those who participated, yet nevertheless incomplete and unscientific. It may be used as the basis for future visioning, perhaps on a movement-wide scale, or set aside as an historical document. Or, for nothing at all, in true Occupy fashion.
The other gathering competing for bodies, and attention, was billed as the 99% Declaration (http://www.the99declaration.org/), and claimed to be nothing less than a New Continental Congress, assembled for a “redress of grievances” as embodied in the First Amendment.
From their web site:
WHEREAS THE FIRST AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION PROVIDES THAT:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
BE IT RESOLVED THAT WE, THE PEOPLE of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in order to form a more perfect Union, by, for and of the People, shall elect citizen Delegates between June 1-7, 2012 to attend and convene a NEW CONTINENTAL CONGRESS the week of July 4, 2012 in the City Of Philadelphia. The Delegates shall then deliberate, draft and ratify a PETITION FOR A REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES to be served upon the United States Congress, Supreme Court and President, prior to November 6, 2012.
And it goes on from there to enumerate a list of grievances.
The 99% Declaration group was founded by three lawyers who originally billed themselves as an Occupy group, but who failed to gain favor or endorsement from Occupy groups, including OWS, which disavowed them, and vice versa. The name heard mentioned most prominently in association with this group is Michael Pollack.
Many of the delegates never showed up to Philadephia, as a result of disagreements about the over-representation of white males. According to local sources, a message board complaining about the under-representation of women was reputedly shut down by Pollack himself—and amidst swirling rumors that the 99 per cent declaration is operated by a shadow right wing Tea Party group. What seems to be clear is that the organization, communication and governance of this group were well outside the Occupy culture.
Head spinning yet?
Both groups attracted far fewer attendees than were originally projected. Part of this was attributed to the killing heat wave that hit the eastern US during that time. Another reason was serious infighting between the groups, laden with accusations, counter-accusations, accusations of misappropriation of funds, the entire spectrum of toxic relationships and equally poisoned human relations follies. It is this sort of mutual mistrust that has seems to afflict many Occupy groups, and which drives older participants, such as yours truly, utterly and completely batshit crazy.
Let me hasten to say that I did not go to Philadelphia for either meeting. Our elected representative, a member of a local Occupy, was so disaffected by the politics and the rancor that she went, with a few friends, to the Rainbow Gathering out in the hills to Get Her Peace On.
The rest of us stayed behind and picketed Wells Fargo in memory of Norman Rousseau. Although it was a brutally hot day, about 20 of us braved the sidewalks in Hampton in support of the initial efforts of Occupy the Virginia Peninsula.
Here’s what one self-described ”watchdog” group had to say about the 99% group group:
“Recent information has been uncovered by Operation Clean House, a group dedicated to outing fraud groups attempting to profit from and/or coopt the Occupy Movement, that the group ‘The 99% Declaration’ run by attorney Michael Pollack, is actually the same group that attempted to co-opt and defraud members of the tea party movement. The group has long claimed to be aligned with OWS groups, such as Occupy Philly, and yet recently Occupy Philly formally denounced them. The group has been collecting donations, yet has no physical occupation to fund, no expenses other than self promotion, and no connection to the OWS movement. Repeated attempts to address these issues with the leadership have been rebuffed, and the only statements they have given are on the lines of “Many Occupiers at large are ready for the next step. Those are the people we need. Not the support of whoever decided they were coming to GA that night. We need people who can think for themselves. The GA’s DO NOT represent all occupier and their needs.” according to members on their facebook page.
Operation Clean House representatives have stated “The 99% declaration is NOT a part of OWS, and has been denounced by all occupations that have voted on it, while not a single occupation has endorsed it. But they are not the only group under investigation, and we pledge to root out ALL groups that attempt to profit or subvert the occupy movement. We believe in total transparency, and any group that collects donations or claims to represent our movement will be scrutinized so that the truth will out.”
Here is an inside look at what happened at the Natgat, from the keyboard of Jake Blumgart writing for Alternet. I have excepted this heavily. for the full box score, go to the Alternet site: http://www.alternet.org/occupywallst/156181
The five-day Occupy National Gathering, which drew to a close on July 4, gave participants a venue to network, prioritize issues and vent their grievances with the movement. The event gave those who felt marginalized the chance to make themselves heard, with many expressing frustration at the preponderance of white males in positions of influence.
The movement’s anarchist roots were readily apparent throughout the five days, with horizontalism and a rejection of mainstream political engagement remaining at the heart of Occupy. Issues of student debt, endangered public education, foreclosure, and big bank power were clearly the dominant concerns, although the national security state, environmental issues and police brutality were also discussed. As with any political function there were a certain number of outlier ideologies, but the 9-11 Truthers and the End the Fed contingents were vanishingly small and exerted little influence. (The latter was reduced from the Ron Paul tents that sprang up at many encampments to a lone crier in a Bob Marley T-shirt.)
The final day also featured a spirited assembly by the Radical Convergence, a group that sprang up in reaction to the perceived de-radicalization of the movement, for those who felt relegated to the periphery of Occupy. As one speaker from New York said, he feared “Occupy no longer being a revolutionary movement, but a movement that happened to contain revolutionaries.”
The Radical Convergence assembly also provided a safe, structured space for people of color and women to express their frustration and anger with the movement. Many said they felt that the “process and organizing is controlled by white males,” as was written in one anonymous concern read during the visioning process, and that too little was being done by Occupy to address issues besetting communities of color and women.
“Where is our solidarity? I see solidarity for many great things—Bradley Manning, student debt, Trayvon Martin,” said Lorena Ambrosio, a New Jersey resident and an Occupy Wall Street participant. “But right now women’s rights are under attack by Republicans all over the country. We need clinic dense, feminist education, the state representative in Michigan who was shut down for just saying ‘vagina’—there should have been immediate action.”
The daily encampment at Franklin Square buzzed with discussion of how best to expand Occupy to cover the issues raised on the 4th at the Radical Convergence assembly. But the direct actions and pageantry held during the National Gathering were largely focused on issues of debt and unjust banking practices. Many of the participants sported red felt squares inspired by the massive student protests in Quebec. All in the Red, a new student group from New York, led a march on Sunday to protest the de-funding of public education and the ever-escalating student debt crisis.
While the activists would occasionally slip into well-worn protest nostrums (“Whose streets?” etc.), their education-centered chants clearly got the crowd revved up: “Education is a right, not just for the rich and white.” The march prompted some bystanders to cheer and honk their horns, a relatively rare event as most of the week’s events did not noticeably attract much outsider attention or support.
“Our main goal coming to NatGat was to do actions with Occupy, to show people we exist, that was our main goal,” says Janna Powell, a New York-based All in the Red organizer who “stepped back from Occupy because it’s a little unproductive right now.”
Ain’t that the fact.
I have personally found that this sort of rancor has riven every single Occupy group with which I have been a part, often disguised behind passive aggressive behavior masquerading as something else. Ego, ambition, personal agenda, romance drama, borderline personality disorder, an almost uncontrollable need for “control.” It is inevitable that in a leaderless organization, attempting to reach consensus could occasion a certain amount of wheel-spinning. Yet much of the above-mentioned drama has driven away many fine people, whose energy, presencce and commitment I miss even yet. Ironies abound.
What is remarkable is that opposition to the entire idea of the unlimited growth based upon “wetiko”, or cannibal culture, is what drew most of us together in protest last fall. This unlimited growth paradigm, coupled with the endless propaganda of “American exceptionalism,” makes a god of the individual, and exalts individual drive and accomplishment, devil take the hindmost. It is precisely this habit of mind, the elevation of self and exaltation of the ego inculcated from the cradle, and in which we are all marinated, that members of the Occupy movement so dearly need to shed. And which, incidentally, is so damned difficult, requiring a consciousness and vigilance that most of us lack.
Yet we fall down, we get back up.
The problems which afflict us, from the corporatization of all spheres of life, to the plunder of the commons, to the restoration of the rule of law, can only be dealt with collectively. It may be difficult to see how we get there from here; it is also quite clear that we have little option but to try. If not us, who? If not now, when?
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The Orkin man is one of RE’s favorite memes, often invoked as a symbol of retribution by the meek against the great. When we watch gangsters confiscate houses with impunity and murder by proxy and a pen (see the story of Norman Rousseau), run the economy into a ditch, commandeered great bonuses and be subject to none of the usual proceedings of justice, it is easy to despair and to look for revenge. This overwritten screed is a meditation upon what has become a thought-provoking thread rife with implications, a thought experiment which, if followed through the course of its own ineluctable logic, obliges each of us to measure where we would fall, and what we would do, in the event TSHTF.
What has actually happened here in this country on these rare occasions when people have stood up en masse to Fight the Power? In a previous lifetime, I investigated and created a documentary about the Battle at Blair Mountain. You will likely not have heard of this, the teaching of labor history having apparently been classified as a Class I misdemeanor here in the FSA. In the largest uprising in the United States outside of the Civil War, in 1921, thousands of miners waged armed warfare in Logan County, West Virginia against mine owners, sheriff Don Chafin, and federal troops, in an effort to unionize the mines.
In Mingo, Logan and McDowell counties, miners worked under incredibly bad conditions, were paid next to nothing, had no freedom of speech or assembly, and were dispatched with impunity by mine guards and local politicos in an atmosphere reminiscent of a third-world dictatorship, or contemporary South Carolina. In 1921, thousands of miners and families were evicted from their tents after having the temerity to join a union. The Miners’ March, as it was called, was set to change all that. The military was engaged, as always, to Protect Property Rights, those most sacred and revered of all rights extended by the Hand of God to the white, male property owners who created the FSA. The miners’ intention was to march to the southwestern coalfields and free fellow miners from abominable treatment at the hands or mine owners.
The miners were opposed by a well-armed contingent of mine guards and State Police with rifles and machine guns. These would eventually be joined by 2,000 regular Army troops armed with airplanes, bombs, and poison gas. The two forces met at Blair Mountain, in Logan County, along the ridge line.
This was the Battle of Blair Mountain.
The battle marked the first time U.S. troops were ordered to bomb civilians. Federal troops squared off against citizen miners, many themselves veterans hardened from recent service in WW I.
The union leader Bill Blizzard eventually surrendered his army in order to avoid further civilian casualties. Blizzard was acquitted in court of insurrection. Future UMW & CIO leader John L. Lewis fought alongside Blizzard at the Battle of Blair Mountain and succeeded in getting recognition for the union 14 years later in southern West Virginia.
One of the songs that sprung up in the wake of these labor troubles with the song “Which side are you on?” It was written by Florence Reece, the wife a union organizer for the UMW in Harlan County, Kentucky, when the miners of that region were locked in a bitter and violent struggle with the mine owners called the Harlan County War. In an attempt to intimidate the Reece family, the local sheriff illegally entered their family home in search of Sam Reece. Sam had been warned in advance and escaped, but Florence and their children were terrorized in his place. That night, after the men had gone, Florence wrote the lyrics to “Which Side Are You On?” on a calendar that hung in the kitchen of her home. She took the melody from a traditional Baptist hymn, “Lay the Lily Low.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Which_Side_Are_You_On%3F)
A Song by Florence Patton Reece
Come all of you good workers
Good news to you I’ll tell
Of how that good old union
Has come in here to dwell
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
My daddy was a miner
And I’m a miner’s son
And I’ll stick with the union
Till every battle’s won
They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there
You’ll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair
Oh, workers can you stand it?
Oh, tell me how you can
Will you be a lousy scab
Or will you be a man?
Don’t scab for the bosses
Don’t listen to their lies
Us poor folks haven’t got a chance
Unless we organize
So the miners organized together to Fight the Power, to take the law into their own hands because the law was an ass. What they got for their trouble was the full response of the state in all of its Majesty and force of arms. Eventually the legal system would catch up. In the fullness of time, union rights would be recognized, at least until after World War II, when the elites mounted their counterrevolution under the banner of “right to work” laws.
In my loathing for the Banksters and their apologists, I take a back seat to nobody. The bailout of 2008, otherwise known as the “banksters coup,” was just the cherry on top of the same toxic milkshake served up as economic and social policy over the last 30 years. The insane clown posse that passes for the modern Republican Party has eyeballed the demographic trends, and pasted together an assemblage of what Drfitglass called “the scattered,raving remnants of the Confederacy for one, last glorious bonfire of democracy.” Combine the wholesale assault of the remnant of the New Deal in an atmosphere of “industrialized political hatespeech,” Fox News, Hate Radio and the Tea Party with its Billionaire backers, and it’s easy to succumb to the desire to want to kill something.
Intellectually I hold with Kunstler’s “lamppost and 40 feet of sturdy nylon rope” as the due for the “masters of the universe “who have ground down our economy and wrecked the ship of state. But personal morality makes looping the first skein of rope over the lamppost morally fraught. On the other hand, one is left with the spectacle of the pigmen rooting among the remains of the economy and the country, like Wu’s pigs disposing of a fresh corpse in HBO’s “Deadwood.”
It is this episode that springs to mind as I consider the “Orkin Man Master Plan” (OMMP) as discussed on the forum of the Doomstead Diner. http://www.doomsteaddiner.org/forum/index.php?topic=477.0
The Orkin man is a favorite device of RE, the invoking of which I have enjoyed since the same since his days on The Burning Platform blog. The Orkin man is an exterminator who cleanses the dwelling of lice, vermin, termites and all manner of infestations. The analogy is clear. The remedy less so.
One poster on Doomsday Diner posed the question, “Who gets to be the Orkin man?” Indeed. Who gets to be the decider? Being the decider has great costs, which turned on a fundamental moral issue, at a time when our moral and spiritual institutions are in decline, church attendance down, and many people utterly and completely unequipped to weigh moral and ethical questions. And as much as I like to give voice to my inner hunchback, there is that “judge not lest ye be judged” morality imbued by a Catholic education and nun-beatings that inflects one’s thoughts, processes and decisions, even decades later.
As I reflected on the more recent exemplars of individuals taking on such a strategy in this country, and after Blair Mountain, my mind skittered to thoughts of Kosovo, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Pinochet’s Argentina, and then settled on the best recent example: Pol Pot whose efforts to form a Communist peasant farming society resulted in the deaths of 25 percent of the country’s population from starvation, overwork and executions. Those Khmer Rouge wanted to return to the land as well, and also wanted to cleanse the parasites, userers and useless eaters from the face of Cambodia. A cautionary tale about the work of idealists who want to remake a society by means of “cleansing” the “parasites…”
It took a while for ol’ Pol to consolidate power– he needed to throw in with Sihanouk to fight the right wing junta the US had installed, then the US had to leave the ‘Nam and Cambodia. But once in power, he began a radical experiment to create an agrarian utopia that would warm the heart of the most doomy doomster. Pol Pot had seen Mao’s Cultural Revolution first-hand during a visit to Communist China, so he figured to go The Great Yellow River Swimmer one better.
Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” included forced evacuations of Chinese cities and the purging of “class enemies, ” a move that would apparently gain favor among participants in this thread. Pol Pot now stood up his own “Super Duper New and Improved Great Leap Forward” in Cambodia, which in itself was new and improved, hence renamed the Democratic Republic of Kampuchea.
Remember Pol Pot’s ringing declaration, “This is Year Zero?” Ah, search your memories. Society was to be “purified.” Capitalism, Western culture, city life, religion, and all foreign influences to be extinguished. Intellectuals, bureaucrats and other glasses-wearers were to push wheelbarrows, the better to repent of their pointy-headedness, and to learn the glories of peasant Communism. Foreigners were expelled, embassies closed, foreign economic or medical assistance refused. No use of foreign languages. Newspapers and television stations were shut down, radios and bicycles confiscated, and mail and telephone usage curtailed. Money was forbidden. (That will kick those usurers in the ass.) Businesses were shuttered, religion banned, education halted, health care eliminated, and parental authority revoked. Thus Cambodia was sealed off from the outside world, almost as effectively as if information were controlled by a small handful of media companies.
Something about that live-or-die thingy tends to bring out the excesses in our revolutionary heroes. I’ll put that in my “Robespierre was overworked and misunderstood” file.
Can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. All of Cambodia’s cities were forcibly evacuated. At Phnom Penh, two million inhabitants were evacuated on foot into the countryside at gunpoint. As many as 20,000 died along the way. Can’t let that stop a man with a purpose.
Millions of Cambodians accustomed to city life were now forced into slave labor in Pol Pot’s “killing fields” where they soon began dying from overwork, malnutrition and disease, on a diet of one tin of rice (180 grams) per person every two days, the better to become compost and improve the yields.
Workdays ran to the 18 hour day, Pol having taken the American South’s “right to work” euphemism to heart. The starving were forbidden to eat the fruits and rice they were harvesting, as that was confiscated by the Khmer rouge and loaded onto their own trucks.
And you can’t have a party without the purges… a veritable binge of purges. Up against the wall went the remnants of the “old society” – the educated, the wealthy, Buddhist monks, police, doctors, lawyers, teachers, glasses-wearers all, no doubt. Ex-soldiers were killed along with their wives and children. Eventually the taste for human blood leads to a paranoia of sorts, and why not? Anyone suspected of disloyalty to Pol Pot, including eventually many Khmer Rouge leaders, was shot or bludgeoned with an ax. “What is rotten must be removed,” a Khmer Rouge slogan proclaimed.
The casualty count rose until Vietnam launched a full-scale invasion of Cambodia seeking to end Khmer Rouge border attacks. On January 7, 1979, Phnom Penh fell and Pol Pot was deposed, and a Vietnamese puppet government put in.
Pol Pot disappeared into the jungles of Thailand with his Khmer Rouge remnant and waged guerrilla war against a succession of Cambodian governments for decades, eventually sputtering out and dying of an apparent heart attack before he could be dragged to trial before an international tribunal.
So it matters little who you pick as the Orkin Man, or how good your motives are, or how thorough your efforts at re-education or eradication may be. The role seems to carry some occupational hazards, as if the appetite for blood, human death and destruction carries with it the seeds of insanity.
Although the image of banksters and stockbrokers mucking out pigpens and pushing wheelbarrows through knee-deep mud remains compelling.
But point was that any kind of social engineering, social cleansing, ethnic cleansing executed by a political agenda will inevitably collapse, most often due to its own corruption and increasingly escalating paranoia on the part of the strongman or the secret oligarchy of “deciders.” There is a reason that we are taught from a very early age, “vengeance is mine saith the Lord, ” ”Thou shalt not kill,” and other Biblical admonishments against the taking of life. It could be that this ancient wisdom recalls that wielding the tools of vengeance is simply above the pay grade of us mere mortals. On the other hand, psychopaths recognize no such compunction. But the question remains: what do we do, what action should we take at a time when psychopaths have commandeered the engines of government and commerce, economic or rate with complete impunity and beyond the reach of such justice as still remains?
In response to such musings, RE posted the following:
Here of course is the EXCESS which occurs in many an Inqusition/Reign of Terror type scenario. There is going to be a lot of BLOWBACK resultant from many people who have lost their comfortable life and who want to see PPII DEAD because of that. He gets blamed for the problems they have; he gets blamed for their loss of economic status in the society. So PPII gets PARANOID, for good reason. People really ARE out to get him. So he starts Killing Them before they Kill Him. //
So all of them go down in History as the most vicious and Genocidal Dictators in all of Recorded History, at least in gross numbers if not in Percentages . . .
Moving into the FUTURE here, the issue is you cannot even Save As Many as you Can by PLAYING BALL with the Illuminati. Why? Because said Illuminati are Fresh OUT of Cheap Oil to sell you with Loans they hand out to you. So unfortunately here in this Morton’s Fork situation, the social dynamic is likely to produce numerous PPIIs and Great Uncle Joes. Because unless somebody does SOMETHING to try to keep the society organized up, the Dieing will be WORSE than it would be if you have some Dictator FORCING people to evacuate the Big Shities. They aren’t going to do that on their own until it is too late and they all are starving and Cannibalizing each other.
We are thus faced with an untenable situation: if any one of us were to put on the Pol Pot T shirt, we would find ouselves in a similar situation, fraught with awful decisions and tinged by paranoia, regions of the mind visited by Joseph Conrad. Far preferable to remember the biblical injunctions that direct our conduct, as Ashvin observed:
It’s not about what we you and I can justify to ourselves with our personal beliefs. It is what you can get OTHER PEOPLE to accept based on their beliefs. Anyone who truly believes in Judeo-Christian theology cannot accept OMMP any more than they can accept Infanticide, even when they are committed with “good intentions” for some Utilitarian goal. According to them, God is perfect and they are imperfect. God has commanded them to avoid certain Sins, and they must have faith in God’s wisdom no matter what. It is not up to them to decide what sins are acceptable via good intentions or utilitarian calculations.
Quote from: Matthew 7:14-27
14“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
15“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17“So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18“A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20“So then, you will know them by their fruits.
21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’
24“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25“And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26“Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27“The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”
I’m just using them as an example of people whose beliefs are fundamentally in opposition to OMMP. They will become your enemies… but them and who else? I think you can easily make the argument that most true Hindus and Buddhists will as well. Now we are easily talking about a lot of people. How many people who claim to believe in these Immortal Truths will have the nerve to follow through when your so-called Herd is stampeding against them? I don’t know, probably only a small fraction.
But my point here is that some of them will, and people like me will admire them for doing so. It’s an amazing thing, really, to have that kind of total devotion to some higher power even in the face of what appears to be the likely threat of species-wide extinction. Talk about a small gate and narrow way!
Yet as we abjure violence, the fact is that evil remains. RE remains adamant about proactively taking the fight to the Pigmen:
Regardless of the means here, whether it is Sepukku or Capital Punishment, the situation is going to create the BLOWBACK from people who once had power, now removed. They will attempt Counter Revolutions and so forth. So you get forced into a battle here no matter what, and people DIE no matter what.
Practical sort of fellow that I am, I work my way through this dynamic to try to find the pathway with the least pain and the greatest survivability for the typical Slave in our society. The means I see working best is to take the battle to the Illuminati before they get the Death Camps rolling in earnest here. You do have to wait for the Failure of the Conduits though, because as long as the Iluminati have the Big Ass Military and Gestapo organized up and functioning, you stand no chance here. Once those Conduits fracture though, the playing field is LEVELLED.
Then you don’t just get MAD, you get EVEN.
In other words, when you observe that the Illuminati are engineering a significant die-off of the “excess” workforce, to bring the earth’s carrying capacity in line with that proscribed by the Georgia Guidestones, what should the meek do? Stand obediently in line at the abattoir, or take the fight to the oppressors? As we all observe every day, there IS such a thing as evil. [There is an entire website (http://www.sott.net/) devoted to the subject of "ponerology" (the study of evil), for those who need a deeper dive into that sort of thing. I confess a somewhat light stomach for learning much more about the rarefied appetites of our elites, the Franklin affair and multiple pedophilia rings being enough to induce projectile vomiting . . .]
The question each of us has to address is, Which side are you on? If you knew that those in control were working to box you into a freight car headed to an unknown future, but which would likely involve Fresh Towels and Hot Showers, would you get on the train or would you take the fight to them? And would you take the fight to them knowing that they controlled all of the vectors and tools of violence with force overwhelming to individual scale? Indeed, our elites have changed the laws to enable the military to operate with impunity here in the “North American battleground” (yes, friends, if you are paying the least bit of attention, we are indeed the enemy), as they have likewise militarized our local police forces, complete with spiffy looking SWAT team suits, armored vehicles. and drones, as the latest invention. We have as our president the only Nobel Peace Prize winner with a personal kill list. So it may be well to say that we’re living in a time where the lessons of history no longer inform what we may be able to infer about the future. All bets are off.
Ultimately, I hold with RE when he says, “save as many as you can,” although we may differ about what that means. As an occupier, I believe that our presence in the streets and withholding our consent is everything that we can do. The community gardening movement is a step toward self-reliance, and teaching others to be self reliant. A self-reliant independent populace is anathema to the powers that be. But even the most psychopathic will find it difficult to dial-up a drone strike against a community garden, unless I miss my bet. Our resistance will be nonviolent, as the state has an utter and complete monopoly of the tools of violence, and a demonstrated increasing bloodthirstiness in applying them. I do not wish to make it easy for them, and have little desire to become a martyr, in a time when even bankster loan officers can murder with a pen and a computer.
Hunter S. Thompson once described himself as a “Road Man for the Lords of Karma.” Since nature, or God bats last, my own view is that through education, self-reliance, and nonviolent resistance we can change a culture. The history of this society guarantees a rain of vengeance and disproportionate response on the part of the minions of the elites, in a road that runs from the Cherokee “Trail of Tears,” though the gulag, through Logan Country through the paddies of Kampuchea to Zuccotti Park. And even if successful, the victors turn into monsters. Changing a society will take generations; generations which we may not have. Our opponents have been at this for many decades; we should not expect the quick fix.
In the coming days, each of us will need to stand up and be counted. At least I know which side I’m on.
So I will join my friend, as he “prays for a pony” (for complete healing). My pastor friend goes on to encourage us to pray for ponies in your own lives.
So why not a pony?
We also have a guerilla garden action planned to help beautify a neglected area nearby that ODU students walk through everyday & will also be beneficial for the wildlife. We’ll also be shooting a video that will be seen by many in our effort to inspire them to help us in this struggle for positive change. I hope you will come and lend your energy & friendship in the work for Peace, Beauty and renewal in Highland Park.”
The following is an account written by Michelle, a woman who organizes a regional Occupy group, who was part of a protest action yesterday against an appearance of Virginia’s Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound with the cardboard figure the Repukes have selected as the one percent’s nominee for POTUS. Having already taken one day off from work this week, I could not play, but some other local Occupiers did.
Of significant interest is how the setting for this meeting was selected with maximum difficulty for public access. Also, “official” word about this event did not make the rounds until 48 hours before the event, whereas the event was pretty well attended, meaning that the people who needed to know knew well before the rest of the unwashed.
Anyhow, this first person report from my colleague:
“So a group of us, how should you say, infiltrated the Romney/Bachmann/McDonnell Rally today in Portsmouth. I will state from the get go I am nonpartisan…100%. In fact I will take it one more step and state I am not a sold out fan for ANY of the current people running for President. I have conservative and liberal leanings when it comes to politics with a lot of progressive thought in my own life. This is why I embrace Occupy so fully because it is a diverse populist group made of many different views working together for a common goal. And I think it is the only way we as a people are going to make it. End of disclaimer…
So some of us from Occupy joined forces with members from Tidewater Against Unfair Tolls Group. First, there was getting the correct information. There were several articles published with incorrect details when it came to time and places. I am guessing this was done intentional for ‘security’. However finally got the accurate information to, what I have dubbed, the “Virginia’s a Great Place to Campaign if You Love America and All That Other Good Stuff Rally”. So after we gather and finalize the plan we head over to the venue….
First, this is the type of place that night, the the mafia goes to dump the bodies. It is in the middle of nowhere. One access road with the Ports Marine Terminal, DHS, and Norfolk Rail to help lend security. There are fences with barb wire. Perfect for an open-to-the-public kind of thing….
Next, there was the standing in line for the event. It was a sea of white…literally. I listened to a lot of people talk about how the Romney campaign had called and invited them out. Many had driven there from Emporia, Isle of Wight, and several other states. There was also atleast two Christian schools that had bussed students in. My guess that the median age would be 65 (not being age-ist just showing the demographic).
Then I got to make a ‘friend’ with a woman in front of me. She was from VA Beach and very wealthy because she made it a point to say where she lived and the kind of car she drove several times. Happy for her and don’t begrudge her for it but no need to be so OCD. I was able to listen in on such little gems as “It’s a shame Portsmouth can’t get rid of the low income housing. It would be such a nice place and cute town.” And when she saw there were protesters near the front of the gate, “Why would they protest Romney? What are they protesting against…a better America?” When she realized it was the No Tolls group, she and the guy next to her discussed how the tolls were steep and would affect some people. Her advice was just to not use the tunnel…oh, brilliant! Such good stuff!
Also, there was a group there supporting/lobbying for the uranium mining. It was being touted as a means of energy and bringing jobs to Virginia…again more good stuff. Then almost in the same breath, one of the guys with a clipboard, said,” But of course everyone wants clean air and clean water. This won’t cause any problems with that.” And the little group in front of us just nodded their heads in unison…
[Surlynote: the proposed mining of the "largest known uranium deposit in the US" sits atop a vast watershed supplying many millions of people. Given the deep care and concern we saw from BP in the Gulf, and the utter destruction of the Gulf fishery, nothing bad could possibly happen in Virginia from corporate malfeasance, right?]
Then there were some lobbyists for oil drilling/fracking. People ahead also thought this was great. It will make us (whoever the ‘us’ is I don’t know because I really get a feeling their ‘us’ does not include people like me) less dependent on Arab oil. And we need not to be involved with any of those countries over ‘there’ (where ever ‘there’ is it is symbolized by making tiny circles away from you). Um, does anyone remember that ‘clean air and clean water’ chat from like 3 minutes ago?
A vendor came by with buttons and other good stuff. My personal favorite was one that had the Trix Rabbit on it and said,” Silly Democrats! Checks are for those who work!” Love the smell of propaganda in the morning.
Again I overheard some other gems from my ‘friend’ in front. She was absolutely dumbfounded how anyone in their right mind could vote for Obama….or anyone else for that matter. We were almost to the body scanners at this point. Security was confiscating people’s foldable chairs (the kind that come in their own carrying case). I get they were concerned with someone sneaking something in (like a critical thought) but it was hot and there was NOWHERE for many of these people to sit. The final quote from my friend was. “See, a liberal would sue over something as dumb as security taking their chair.” I told Angela I would have to wash my mouth out with soap for talking with her. Good stuff!
So the four of us made it in and found some others who were part of our covert operation. Then Secret Security(SS) began barricading and closing the exit off. People were made to stand behind the new barricade. We made it in just in time! Yay..there was a very muscular guy in a hard hat posing, I mean, sitting on a crane they just happened to have there. One lone reporter wondered out of the ‘press bloc’ to try and talk to him. Think she was trying to figure out if he was a paid shill *cough*yes*cough*. Well, the good boys of the SS quickly swooped in to stop that. We however had to do some regrouping and quick decision making as our original plan was not going to work. It was decided that I would leave with Angela. ALL the security and some rapid fans with a closed escape route were too much! The others in the group would stay and carry out a modified silent protest. I hope that Ron will do a write-up of that soon.( Also hope that Angela can share her thoughts on the day!) So I went up first to a policeman and stated I was not feeling well from the sun ( not a lie because I was red like a lobster) and if we would be allowed to leave. He sent us over to the barricade (just like the ones from Zucotti) and the SS guy let me out. As we said excuse me and the crowd parted, I reached into my purse, pulled out my ‘No Tolls’ Sticker, and slapped it across my mouth….symbolizing how we are being told to be silent and we will not comply. Also, people could not miss it! Got a lot of shocked expressions…especially from the lobbyist and merchandise guys who had been trying to talk to me earlier. Surprise fellas…good stuff!”
[Surlynote: In our region, a number of Occupy and other community groups are highly energized to battle the comprehensive transportation agreement for Hampton Roads recently signed by Governor Transvaginal Ultrasound, which will impose crushing tolls on our region for almost 60 years, draining local economies to enrich foreign corporations. The deal even featured automatic rate hikes for the term, plus the citizens paying an indemnity-- an indemnity! --to Skanska should the Commonwealth, in some benighted future state, build another crossing and thus impair the computed profit stream!(Ultimately the cost of the behind-closed-doors-cooked-in-hell deal redounds to all Virginians as financial resources are diverted from the Commonwealth to the private corporate partners in the agreement.) Local groups are vigorously challenging the legality of the transportation agreement and seek financial support for the upcoming legal battle, which has already begun. Several local Occupiers have joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs.]
How many people died for your eight-hour day?
The first week of May is the anniversary of some of the bloodiest struggles in the history of labor, culminating in a holiday commemorated worldwide in recognition of American events, but ignored by design in the United States.
In Hampton Roads, several Occupy groups came together to plan an action whose results quill be seen on Tuesday. All of this effort in support of the Occupy call for a general strike on Tuesday.
Many of the labor conditions that we accept as our birthright came at a huge cost, generally borne by working-class people banding together to insist on better conditions for themselves and their comrades. As Americans, we take for granted the many working conditions that were won for us only by the struggle of organized workers coming together in common to work for common goals. From the vantage point of 2012, it’s easy to forget that the eight hour day was such a radical, leftist idea that police would fire into crowds of workers to stop it.The 8 hour day was actually a labor movement in the 19th century that took place over decades.
May 1 is a national holiday in more than 80 countries. International Workers’ Day (also known as May Day) is a celebration of the international labor movements. It commonly sees organized street demonstrations and marches by working people throughout most of the world. International Workers’ Day is the commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago.
Following the Civil War, the United States experienced a rapid expansion of industrial production. Chicago was a major industrial center and tens of thousands of German and Bohemian immigrants were employed at pauper’s wages, about $1.50 a day. Not surprisingly, the city became a center for many attempts to organize labor’s demands for better working conditions. Employers responded with repressive tactics, including acts of violence, often abetted by police.
On May 1, 1886, in support of the eight-hour day, Albert Parsons, head of the Chicago Knights of Labor, accompanied by his wife, two children, and 80,000 fellow workers, marched down Michigan Avenue, Chicago, in what is regarded as the first modern May Day Parade. Every road in Chicago stopped running, and most of the industries in Chicago were paralyzed. The stockyards were shut down. The state militia had been called out, and the police were ready. In the next few days they were joined nationwide by 350,000 workers who went on strike at 1,200 factories, including 70,000 in Chicago, 45,000 in New York, 32,000 in Cincinnati, and additional thousands in other cities. Some workers gained shorter hours (eight or nine) with no reduction in pay; others accepted pay cuts with the reduction in hours.
On May 3, 1886, August Spies, editor of the Arbeiter-Zeitung (Workers Newspaper), spoke at a meeting of 6,000 workers, and afterwards many of them moved down the street to harass strikebreakers at the McCormick plant in Chicago. At a subsequent rally on May 4 to protest this violence, a bomb exploded at a rally in Haymarket Square. The bomb wounded 66 policeman, of whom 7 later died. The police fired into the crowd killing several people and wounding over 200. Hundreds of labor activists were rounded up and the prominent leaders arrested, tried, convicted, and executed giving the movement its first martyrs. Those put on trial were guilty only of their ideas. None of the accused had been at Haymarket that day except for one, who was speaking when the bomb exploded. A jury found them guilty and they were sentenced to death.
There was some evidence to suggest that the person who actually threw the bomb was an agent of the police, and agent provocateur, hired to throw the bomb enable the arrest of hundreds of people, and thus the revolutionary leadership. This was never proved. The immediate effect was to suppress the radical movement of labor. But the long-term in fact was the fan the flames of class anger in many and to inspire many others to action the revolutionary and labor causes, and effort that would bear fruit in subsequent generations. Many thousand people signed petitions and a later governor of Illinois, John Peter Altgeld, investigated what happened and pardon the 3 remaining prisoners who had not yet been executed.
The American Federation of Labor, meeting in St Louis in December 1888, set May 1, 1890 as the day that American workers should work no more than eight hours. The International Workingmen’s Association meeting in Paris in 1889, endorsed the date for international demonstrations, thus starting the international tradition of May Day.
May 1 is known as May day and celebrated as international workers day across the world, except in the United States, where the official holiday for workers is Labor Day in September. This is because Pres. Grover Cleveland feared that commemorating Labor Day on May 1 could become an opportunity to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre and thus create martyrs. So he moved in 1887 to support Labor Day in September, and thus obscure the focus on the rights of working people. Right wing governments have traditionally sought to repress the message behind international workers day, with results that we see today.
The site of the Haymarket affair was designated as a landmark in Chicago in 1992, and the public sculpture was dedicated in 2004.
The lessons of history demonstrate that change ONLY happens when ordinary people band together to educate one another and work to achieve their common interests. This is why we occupy.
It was called, “A Marxist and Free Market Analysis of the Crisis in Capitalism and public forum. It was sponsored by the Old Dominion University Philosophy club. Who would’ve thought that such a thing as a philosophy club could possibly exist in this era of untrammeled free markets and Ayn Randian supermen striding like colossi across the post 9-11 landscape?
Featured speakers included Dr. Lawrence Hatab, Dr. Rod Evans, and Prof. Anthony Nattania, along with Ed Hightower of the Socialist Equality Party, several young men from ODU Out, plus two Occupiers, Tess Amuroso, artist and photographer, and Deb Lassiter, a local activist. An interesting, if combustible mix.
Dr. Hatab was the first to speak. A tweedy, affable and clearly thoughtful fellow, Dr. Hatab was a University Professor and Eminent Scholar and has variety of degrees from Villanova, Fordham et al. and a resume brimming with the variety of publications one would associate with an Eminent Scholar, spanning neighborhoods from Nietsche to Heidigger, through Postmodern Politics and “The Redemption of Time and Politics.” Brimming with a sense of both incredulity and outrage at the excesses of the market and their government enablers in 2008, Hatab came to engage the assignment, that being an analysis of a “crisis in capitalism.” One of his more fascinating observations was that he thought that the Marxist view of capital would work if it weren’t for the phenomenon of corporate welfare. He noted that we do not have the capitalist system whether we have a crony capitalist system in which government picks winners and losers through the various mechanisms of tax breaks, favorable legislation, and outright gifts, not to mention no-bid Government contracts . . .
Dr. Hatab described our state as “welfare capitalism” and that without welfare capitalism, Marx would’ve been right. He noted the meltdown of 2008 as an example, in which massive wealth was transferred to banks while risk transferred to the taxpayers, in the form of debts that will likely prove unpayable. He talked at some length about the way that what used to be tangible has become abstract– the phenomenon of derivatives, and “rehypothification,” et al . . .an interesting rabbit hole regarding the nature of money as a quantitative unit standing for qualitative things. His opinion was that these thieves and pirates on Wall Street understood exactly what they were doing: “These people make the old industrialists of the Gilded Age look like choir boys.” Lending used to have something to do with relationship. Time was your mortgage banker was an individual, who looked you in the eye, assessed your value and reliability, and who otherwise had an interest in who you were and what your ability to pay might be.No more. Hatab decried the fact that the financial transaction itself is become utterly and completely abstract, its value restricted to the fees gained on their resale.
A “Free Market Analysis” was presented by Prof. Anthony Nattania, a professor of philosophy and religious studies since 2001. Nattania, tall, slender and understated, asked rhetorical questions to frame his argument. He laid many ills at the feet of Fannie and Freddie, and the infamous “no document loans” I had never heard of. The motives of fee-mongers had apparently not crossed his mind as a potential ill.
Nattania equated people who receive government services to “thieves.” He decried the attempts on the part of government to mitigate the problems caused by the poor choices made by individuals. and he thought that this level of coercion in which government picks winners and losers was the root of the problem.
His fellow Austrian, Dr. Rod Evans, was far more voluble. He came not to analyze, but to deliver a blistering manifesto of accusations against the state, in one instance managing to work “Nancy Pelosi” into the conversation twice in five minutes. Evans evidently intererned for a summer at the H. Ross Preot school for presentation, so ready was he with a variety of flipcharts for the easel. They appeared then disappeared with a staggering frequency. One example of the many in which he provided proof that it was the umngrateful proles of the working class that should bear the responsibility for all the ills that affect society: Unhealthful diet+inadequate exercise+drug use= explosion of health care costs. Why should they have to pay for health care because of the poor choices “they” make?
At no time did Evans give shrift of any kind to the role of Big Pharma in escalating drug use of market manipulation…
After a break, Ed Hightower offered a brief 20 minute summation of Marx’s analysis of capital. I was somewhat familiar with these, having reread the “Communist Manifesto,” A Christmas gift from my daughter. His presentation was basic: how “surplus value” is sieved from the working class by the capitalists. Some discusion of how socialism is not a moral idea, and discuision materialism v. idealism. This presentation was intellectual and could have benefitted from making the almost self-evident with more immediacy. Which is precisely what happened as the presentation came closer to the present day, as we saw how the economic position of the working class has collapsed since 1980, corresponding almost one-to -one with the transfer of wealth to the one per cent. The top 20% have realized a 277% increase in their income since 1970. As most of us know, the Reagan revolution has corresponded with the greatest transfer of wealth from the middle-class to the upper class in American history, an enormous boondoggle benefiting the upper 1%.The conservative professors sat and listened to this presentation, Hatab having already left. Then as the occupiers made ready to speak, and they all left and went outside, as if they had nothing left to learn. One could have made the excuse of other commitments, except that they stood outside and talk to one another while the occupier presentations were going on.
Tess Amoruso was first. An artist and photographer, Tess showed a slide show of her pictures from various occupations ranging all over the country, while she made her appeal for peace and justice through people power, and envisioning a better world through the use of peaceful non-violent demonstration. Her words were deeply moving, her pictures absolutely riveting. I was transfixed by her work, and how the images, in series, moving from one occupation to another all along the East Coast, captured the essence of the essentially decency of most people who self-identify as Occupiers. With an eye for the telling detail or small truth, her images captured that oft-repeated truism that “we need to be the change that we envision in our world.” It is precisely those images I wish these self-satisfied professors had had the patience and willingness to see.
Three Occupy Norfolk protestors were finally brought to trial in the case of a December 14 action protesting the NDAA at a local building that housed Senator Mark Warner’s office. The three, Anita Cafiero, Angela Barnes, and Maria Hotson, were arrested outside the World Trade Center, a large office building in Norfolk that is home to a number or corporate and legal offices and the Norfolk office of Senator Mark Warner. Warner’s office was chosen because he voted in favor of NDAA.
One protestor reached a separate plea agreement. The others were defended by Patrick Bales. I watched the proceedings and made notes.
The local prosecutor, Andy Fox, prosecuted this case with a vigor not seen in earlier cases. Fox spent a lot of time on Police Lt. Shaun Squyres, a short, grey-headed man who earlier had told protestors, “the gloves are off.” At one point, under questioning from Fox, Squyres re-interpreted and expanded upon what the the property manager in the World Trade center actually said. Why Bales did not object to this re-characterization and spin is beyond me. It appeared to be a soft spot in an otherwise spirited defense.
The heart of Bales’ defense seemed to be that the protestors believed that they had the right to enter the building, having been invited by staffers working for the senator. Contradictory messages were sent from within: in the first, the staffers invited a small group inside; in the second, the staffers said they would entertain a group of no more than six, and on a different day. Testimony from the staffers was entered into the record via a deposition, they having been interviewed by phone for this purpose (after the Senate had to pass a resolution permitting them to testify, a little bit of arcana with which I was not familiar.)
Interesting takeaways from this case are that the city police force can be used as security guards for private property whether or not, in fact, a written agreement between the city and the property owner had been executed; an interesting bit of trivia that seemed significant to the defense, but which the judge brushed aside. Plus, the city deployed ten sheriff’s deputies and a supervisor to watch over the majesty of the courtroom. Generally two are provided, even for capital murder trials. Wonder why the local Occupy group receives such a level of attention?
In both cases, if each individual manages to avoid arrest or demonstrates “good behavior” over the next 90 days, the charge will be dismissed.
Meanwhile, on Saturday March 24, a local “Occupy the Hood” group stood up a vigil and fundraiser for Trayvon Martin and his legal defense team, in cooperation with Universal Zulu Nation Chapter 30, local Occupies and other community groups. Several hundred people braved rains to march. The police presence was minimal (two vehicles), and respectful. Quite a difference in police behavior when you show up in significant numbers.
Occupy Norfolk protesters found guilty of trespassing
Jeremy McLean photo
Occupy protesters were arrested Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011, at the World Trade Center in downtown Norfolk. From left they are Angela Barnes, Geoffrey Hughes, Anita Cafiero and Maria Hotson. Barnes, Cafiero and Hotson appeared in court on Friday, March 23, 2012, as did Lt. Shaun Squyres, who is shown in the photo warning them to go back on the sidewalk. (Courtesy of Jeremy McLean)
4 arrested at Norfolk ‘Occupy’ protest over military detention – Dec. 15, 2011
Occupy Norfolk protesters found not guilty in court – Feb. 1
By Patrick Wilson
© March 24, 2012
Three members of Occupy Norfolk who were arrested during a protest at the World Trade Center downtown were convicted of misdemeanor trespassing on Friday.
The charges will be dropped, however, if they remain on good behavior for 90 days, a judge ruled.
Angela J. Barnes, Kiesha M. Hotson and Anita M. Cafiero were arrested Dec. 14 after they sat down in the grass outside the World Trade Center on Main Street during a protest over federal legislation to authorize military detention of suspected terrorists.
Judge Bruce A. Wilcox heard the cases in General District Court.
Patrick Bales, an attorney for Barnes and Hotson, argued that they were told that a staffer for U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, who has an office in the World Trade Center, said six members of Occupy Norfolk could come into the building to share their position.
But Deputy City Attorney Andy Fox argued that the protesters were told repeatedly by Norfolk police that they would be arrested if they did not move from the lawn back to the public sidewalk.
Lt. Shaun Squyres, who oversees the police downtown Green Sector patrol, testified that the defendants wore prisoner costumes as they sat on the grass following about an hour and a half of a peaceful protest.
He said he told them to go back on the sidewalk at the request of building management or they would be arrested. One of them decided to go back, he said.
“I gave them several opportunities,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that these young people were given the absolute benefit of understanding the consequences of their decision.”
Occupy Norfolk, similar to a protest that started in New York City, camped at the Commercial Place fountain park downtown for a month last fall before city officials decided to force them out.
The city is planning to approve a ban on camping on public property.
Group members have said they worked closely with police and were on friendly terms with most of them.
The group has been investigated by the department’s Criminal Intelligence Unit, a specialized unit that reports directly to the police chief and investigates suspected terrorists, hate crimes and threats to the community. Other investigations by the unit included neo Nazi hate activity in Norfolk.
Ten deputy sheriffs were present in the courtroom for Friday’s hearing. Generally, district courtrooms are staffed with two deputies for security, said Paula Miller, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office.
“We were anticipating a large presence in the courtroom,” she said. “PD had said that they posted on their web site that they wanted a large crowd at the hearing.”
About 20 Occupy Norfolk supporters attended the hearing. One of them, James McPherson, said afterward that the heavy law enforcement presence was unwarranted but typical.
“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” ~JFK
Which, unfortunately, may be the point.
By now you will have seen some of the news about the police riot at OWS on Saturday night. Why on earth would police feel the need to clear people from the Wall Street area at 11:30 pm on a Saturday night? The streets are empty down there at that hour. The answer will be apparent with a little inference . . .
The NYT article below is pretty good, with one singular exception: I really wish the Times and other journos would stop hiding behind the word “clashed” to describe what occurs between the police and protesters, in what might be more accurately described as a police riot. Being led away in handcuffs is not “clashing” with the police. Having your head smashed into a plate glass window so hard it shatters the window is not “clashing” with police.
A police state is in place, at the beck and call of King Bloomberg, and paid for in large measure by an extra generous JPM donation to the Police Benevolent fund. And the wholesale repression evidenced by Bloomberg’s thugs, obviously designed to crush the movement, should only serve to invigorate it.
The Constitution is clear: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” It does not say you need a permit to march. It does not say you have to confine your march to the sidewalk. It does not say you must have a permit to use a sound system or bullhorn. These are all abridgments of our Constitutional rights, invented by the New York Police Department, and others like them around the country who mirror their example. Bloomberg’s private army is issuing illegal and unconstitutional orders, making illegal arrests and committing scores of unlawful acts.
This weekend’s demonstrations and police riot come on the heels of Greg Smith’s indictment of Goldman Sachs. The same week, we are told, that Bloomberg went to GS to lend his support to the robber barons he worked for. This mayor has lost all credibility when it comes to class differences and the plight of the working class and the poor. I suspect OWS and the many groups throughout the country that it has spawned will warm up their activities along with the weather. A weekend protest in Norfolk against the NDAA and EEA was pretty well attended, and even some Tea Party people joined in protesting the endless incursion of what used to be rights. A couple of police cruisers attended these modest efforts, although it was reassuring to see our old friends parked along our gathering.In other news, the final trial for Occupy-related defendants in Norfolk General Court is scheduled for Friday. Thus far, Norfolk Occupiers are 4-0 against the city’s law enforcement and judicial system. Which is much better than my NCAA bracket.
Read more at
From the NYT:
Scores of Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested on Saturday night as police officers swept Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan and closed it.
Dozens of demonstrators sat down and locked arms as officers moved in about 11:30 p.m. The protesters chanted “we are not afraid” as the police began pulling people from the crowd, one by one, and leading them out of the park in handcuffs.
The operation occurred after hundreds of people had gathered in the financial district to observe the founding of Occupy Wall Street six months ago. Earlier, protesters had embarked upon a winding march, after which police officers made initial arrests of about a dozen people near the park.
By 11:30 p.m., as police officers massed on Broadway, a commander announced that the park was closed. Those inside shouted back that the park was obliged through an agreement with the city to remain open. The commander then announced that anyone who remained inside would be arrested and charged with trespassing.
After clearing the park, police officers and private security guards began placing a ring of metal barricades on the park’s perimeter, as those who had been arrested were placed inside a city bus.
At one point, a woman who appeared to be suffering from seizures flopped on the ground in handcuffs as bystanders shouted for the police to remove the cuffs and provide medical attention. For several minutes the woman lay on the ground as onlookers made increasingly agonized demands until an ambulance arrived and the woman was placed inside.
By 12:20 a.m., a line of officers pushed against some of the remaining protesters, forcing them south on Broadway, at times swinging batons and shoving people to the ground.
Kobi Skolnick, 30, said that officers pushed him in several directions and that as he tried to walk away, he was struck from behind in the neck. “One of the police ran and hit me with a baton,” he said.
Earlier that afternoon, as protesters gathered under blue skies while carrying banners and signs, the day was in some ways reminiscent of the first time the Occupy protesters gathered in mid-September. Just after 1 p.m., brandishing placards with messages like “Take back government from corporations,” the crowd left Zuccotti Park headed south on Broadway, chanting the now familiar slogan “We are the 99 percent.”
When the first protesters set foot in the financial district six months ago, few people imagined what would follow, including a two-month encampment in Lower Manhattan, similar camps in cities across the country and critiques of corporate greed becoming part of the national dialogue.
The movement was mainly quiet during the winter, but organizers said they were aiming for a springtime resurgence.
“It’s just a reminder that we’re here,” Brendan Burke said, as the crowd marched past the New York Stock Exchange. “It’s an opportunity to remind Wall Street that we aren’t going anywhere.”
In several respects, Saturday’s march was similar to the inaugural one. The crowd was small but spirited and marched past the bronze sculpture of a bull at Bowling Green, which had served as a mustering spot for the first march. Marchers were accompanied by police officers on foot and on scooters who at one point blocked access to Wall Street, just as they did on Sept. 17.
And, as they did that day, the marchers made sudden turns that appeared to surprise the police and walked along Wall Street for at least a brief time.
At one point, several demonstrators stood on the steep steps of Federal Hall and chanted “1-2-3-4, I declare class war.”
Later, members of the group ignored orders from the police to remain on sidewalks and flowed onto parts of Exchange Place and Beaver Street. Later, on Broad Street, a deputy inspector turned to a sergeant and said, “We got to start collaring some.”
For the next 30 minutes or so, things remained calm as marchers stuck to the sidewalks and entered Zuccotti Park.
But then, just after 2 p.m., police officers began telling a large group of protesters that they could not stand on the sidewalk on a stretch of Liberty Street. Officers pushed the crowd until more than 100 protesters on the sidewalk were pressed against a wall that borders the park.
Then the police began grabbing and arresting people, taking into custody at least half a dozen. Officers surged into the crowd, dragging protesters toward the street, as people yelled objections.
“They were grabbing people randomly,” Zachary Kamel said, adding that his girlfriend, Lauren DiGoia, had been arrested while dancing on the sidewalk.
One sergeant grabbed a woman wearing a green shirt by the bottom of her throat and shoved her head against the hood of a car. A moment later, another officer approached and forcefully pressed her head against the car before placing her into the back of a police truck.
Over the next few hours, protesters conducted meetings inside Zuccotti Park and held a dance party fueled by a saxophone and a battery of drums. Sporadic moments of tension also arose.
At one point, the police arrested a handful of protesters on Cedar Street near Trinity Place. A few moments later, near Cedar Street and Broadway, a police captain pushed a man by the shoulders for almost a block, then released him when a crowd loudly demanded to know whether the man was under arrest.
The man, Charlie Gonzalez, 31, said that the captain had told him he was not permitted to stand on the sidewalk.
About an hour later, the same captain pushed another man several hundred feet east down Cedar Street, about a block from Zuccotti Park, and briefly detained him.
That man, Yoni Miller, 19, said he was counting officers standing in rows near Broadway when the captain forced him to walk around a corner onto Cedar Street, then asked him if he was a terrorist or was planning any crimes.
Paul Moore, 25, said that he was videotaping the encounter when the captain asked him for identification and began pushing him away, telling him he was not permitted to document what was happening.
After nightfall, the number of people inside the park swelled to more than 500.
About 10 p.m., some of those in the park began a regimen of running and dancing that they called “spring training,” which they said was meant to prepare for coming demonstrations.
At 10:30, protesters sprung up a green tarp, folded over a piece of rope suspended from two trees near the center of Zuccotti Park. Security and police officers looked on from the perimeter.
Occassionally I like to consider Transitionary means of handling the collapse
for people who are already “off the cliff” or very near to being so. One of my
most famous such paradigms was the “Golden Corral” means of using All U Can Eat
Buffets as a great source of cheap food to last you days on one sitting you
actually pay for.
Most of these ideas work best for the Single Male, and are in fact most
necessary for single men because they generally get the least help in the form
of State subsidies which are designed mostly to help Women with dependent
children and to an extent 2 parent families under the poverty line also. Single
women tend to get more help from charity groups and women’s protection groups
that have evolved since the 70s “Women’s Liberation” movement. However, the
ideas can work for all these groups to one extent or another.
Today’s important Transition prep I’d like to consider for the Big Shity or
Suburban dweller is the Storage Unit. The biggest problem once you lose your
home to Foreclosure and become Nomadic is the safety and storage of your
personal possessions, those things I believe a person CAN “own”, as they can be
carried with you.
Of course I think its important to try to hold onto your Car aka Bugout Machine
as long as possible here, but it is not a good idea to wedge all your personal
belongings into your car. They can’t all fit into your trunk usually unless you
have really ared down to essentials; they’ll crowd up the car and on top of that
make the car itself a target for theft. So having a Storage Unit provides a
relatively SAFE place to barbor most of your worldly possessions besides the
If you have NO car of course, the Storage Unit is even MORE important. The
amount of stuff you can carry around with you in a Backpack and Wheely Bag or
even with a Bike-Trailer combo is exceedingly small and VERY insecure. You
can’t even leave it to go inside Walmart with your SNAP Card to buy food.
Even if you have the “Rolls Royce” of motorized Bugout Machines, the RV, keeping
all your stuff inside one of these is a risk because they are easily broken
into, plusd if the Gestapo tows it away at some point then along with the Bugout
Machine you ALSO lose all the rest of your Preps.
Comercial Storage Units in most suburban locations aren’t very expensive. Until
I shoved my Jeep into one when I came up to Alaska, the one I maintined for my
trucking years only cost me $35/mo. 10′x20′, PLENTY of room for a shit load of
preps! Hell you could even easily live in it, though that is not allowed by the
Storage unit Management People, and you want to Obey their rules scrupulously so
they don’t kick you out. However, said storage untis are usually accessible
every day from 7AM-9PM or so, you have your own Code to get in past the gate at
any time, then only you know the Combination to the lock you put on the storage
unit. Its Guarded during Bizness Hours by the Manager, and during non Biz Hours
said manager often lives on the property in a small room in the back of the
office also. Plus there are Alarm Systems. They are very secure. I’ve kept my
Lower 48 Junk in the same storage facility for over a decade now with never any
problem at all.
So, let us say for example you have lost your Job and your Domicile, all yu are
left with here is your SUV, a trailer, a Bike and Bike Pulled Trailer you can
have in SUV Trailer, plus all the Preps you can stuff into your SUV and the
bigger trailer. You decide that what you want to do now is become part of the
OWS Movement, and travel around the country to where all the Biggest Protests
are Occurring. This for a few reasons. First it gives you something worthwhile
to be DOING, second it gets you moving around with possibilities of finding some
kind of work somewhere, third you’ll hook up with others and perhaps form a
small Tribe of Gypsies.
You get to your OWS Protest spot, do you want to be risking ALL your Preps to
the inevitable Gestapo Crackdown? Hell No. You find a Storage Unit somewhere
in say a 10-15 mile radius. Cost for Storage Unit, $40/mo say. Cost to store
your Trailer on the property inside the Gates, another $15. You empty out your
car and trailer into the Storage Unit, now you are just another J6P with a car
in the neighborhood. Yo drive from the Storage Unit to within say a Mile of the
OWS emcampent, find Legal parking on a Daily Basis. All you take with you to
the encampent is a cheap $40 Tent from Walmart, a $15 Sleeping Pad and $25
Sleeping Bag. So when the Rosut comes from the Gestapo, the MOST you can lose
here is around $80, and that’s only if you decide to stay if there is warning
given that the Bust is coming. If you even get a few hourse warning, you can of
course pack up the sleeping gear and tent, hike them back to the Bugout Machine,
throw them in the Trunk, then Hike Back with your Gas Mask and Hockey Pads on
and get ready to confront the Storm Troopers. You get thrown into the Pokey for
the night, get a Hot Meal and a Summons to report to the Courthose at some
future date for “Disturbing the Peace” and “Resisting Arrest”, then you head
right back to join up with the other OWSers to contemplate your next move.
How much now is your New Life as a Professional OWS Protester going to cost you?
Say $100/mo for the storage Unit in the general vicinity. Upon arrival, you’re
not going to use the Car much, just move it through various parking spots that
are legal on a daily basis. A tank of Gas probably lasts you easy a month this
way, likely more. Say another $30 for Gas at current prices. You’re going to
want to keep the Tags legal and basic Insurance, so let’s call it $120/yr for
Registration and another $600/year for Insurance. $10/mo and $50/mo respectively
for those costs. Having a Mail Box at Mailboxes etc or some siilar place would
be a good idea also, call that $25/mo. Big expense a but MUST HAVE is your Cell
Phone with Wireless 4G Internet service for a whopping $100/mo, big expense but
you want to maintain that one as long as possible. With said phone you can make
Vids and Document the protest, perhaps catch Gestapo in the Act of Brutality and
make a Vid that goes Viral.
So, all totalled here, your monthly expenses excluding Food are around $315/mo,
let’s round up to $350. You’re likely eligible for a SNAP card, but besides
that you have access to all the Donated Pizzas at the OWS encampment, not to
mention the Jail Food each time you get Arrested. Food should be a Negligible
expense, you might even be able to make a Profit off your SNAP card as described
in prior threads of selling Soup or slices of Quiche etc if you are a decent
I’ll do some further Up Rounding here to say this entire paradigm costs you no
more than $5000/year to follow for so long as the monetary system holds up and
inflation doesn’t go Full Zimbabwe. You get to keep most of your Personal
Possessions, and keep them relatively SAFE.
You ALSO may be able to significantly REDUCE these costs if you start to HOOK UP
and form a small Tribe along the way here. If you find a cute young girl with a
Trust Fund and impress her with your Political Savvy, Radical Ideas, Poetry
and/or Guitar Playing and Folk Songs, you could be in clover for the duration of
the Spin Down! LOL. Seriously though, if you find a couple of others who do not
have Cars, you can offer them to kick in with you, up to say 4 people travelling
together in the SUV as it becomes necessary to move on. If they can each cough
up say $100/mo ($3/day which they probably could BEG), your costs could get
close to zero here.
Even if you don’t choose the OWS Professional Protester Paradigm though, the
Paradigm works for exiting a Big shity in a relative hurry and heading for a
rural location, long as said location has an available Storage Unit facility,
and most of them do. They aso come dirt cheap in said rural locations. In the
early stages of the Collapse this is probably a better paradigm to undertake
than going Full Primitive, though less good than Hooking Up with a Doomstead
Owner and using his Barn as the Storage Facility while you help Defend and
Protect said Doomstead and make it productive.
Total Costs here for a Secure Package that probably keeps you from falling
conpletely off the cliff and into a FEMA Concenteration Camp for say 2 years?
$10K in CASH, and another $5-10K in Preps depending how expensive the Bugout
Machine is and how complete you want to make the package overall with Freeze
Dried Foods, PV panels and so forth. About all of this stuff goes in the Storage
Unit wherever you end up, it’s not deployed for so long as we have not arrived
at complete Mad Max. During the time Da Goobermint sorta functions here, you
utilize the systems that WILL be organized to keep people from immediately
starving. Even if the Monetary System craps out completely, there will be Ration
Coupons (SNAP Cards) distributed for a while and Goobermint Cheese, and Charities will pick
up some slack as well.
You should be extremely CAREFUL about who if anyone you reveal your System to.
On arrival at an OWS emcampment, you should look pretty Poor overall, as though
just your Tent and Sleeping Bag is all you have. Only after significant time
getting to know ANYONE should you make the Offer to Join Forces as an incipient
Tribe, and your ability to judge the Honesty and Trustworthiness of the
individuals you make such an offer to is of paramount importance. If you make
the WRONG choice here, the person you Hook Up with might just wait for the first
night alone with you when you go to sleep and slit your throat for all you have.
You are obviously much better off if you BEGIN the paradigm with 2 or 3 others
who are long time friends or relatives or a Significant Other.
This paradigm should operate well for the next 2-3 years IMHO, barring a Sudden
Stop of the Monetary System as a whole, and even with that could operate that
long. You might have to abandon the Car sooner if Gas becomes unavailable to
buy, but then you still have the Bike and most of the stuff is still safe in the
Storage Unit. However, if you see it coming in time far as Gas Unavailability
goes, you are at that time probably best off using your Last Tank and extra Gas
Cans to load up the Bugout Machine to make the Final Bugout of going Full
In the scheme of things, the politics of Occupation occur on bigger stages than Norfolk, VA. Better known and noisier Occupations on Wall Street or Oakland, even Richmond, make the news and earn the headlines. Yet the fact that several groups of Occupiers maintain a presence and effect actions here in the heart of East Coast military might, and continue to bear witness to the abuses of the combination of state and economic power even here, has seemingly rattled the judgement of the stewards of that power here in southeastern Virginia.
Later she told me, “Right before it happened, I had a moment of clarity: that this was going down, and I could choose to go through with it, and if I did there could be repercussions. And I decided then to do it. And while they were arresting me, I felt pity for them.” The pretrial thoughts ofCarmen, my 20-year old daughter, the “littlest Occupier.”
The case of three of the Norfolk Occupiers for “obstruction of justice” by the police of the city of Norfolk went to trial today in General District Court. The three, Angela, Tess, and Carmen, had charges dismissed by the judge.
The judge found the charges overdrawn and that the behavior in question failed to rise to the standards required of obstruction in the statute, which was it itself clarified in a 1925 Virginia state decision cited by the defense.The charges were dismissed even before the defense attorneys mounted their defense of their clients. As the judge said, “Had the City pursued tresspass or even resisting arrest charges, they might have made a case. But they didn’t bring it to court.”
The issues were several: 1) there was no evidence that a lawful order to clear the park had ever been given; discovery produced no order; 2) there was no clear indication why the three women were even arrested, where it was clear that people that were in the park at the same time were not arrested; 3) the arresting officers failed to bring those arrested before a magistrate, violating procedures. From the cheap seats, it was pretty clear that the City might have made a trespassing charge stick, but the requirements of obstruction were too high a judicial hurdle to clear.
The defendants’ behavior didn’t even belong in the same zip code as obstruction: the accused were at all times peaceable, linking arms and engaged in chanting and prayer. At no time did they so much his raise their voices. They simply linked arms.
Given the events of this morning, one has to wonder why the district attorney even brought these charges, knowing that she had such a weak case with so many holes? If doing this was an attempt to send a message to the burgeoning Occupy movement, I have to think the message was marked as “not received.” That doesn’t mean that civil disobedience does not and will not have its costs.
On this day, justice was served. There will be other causes, other days, and we must remain ready.
UPDATE March 9: Yesterday, three Norfolk Occupiers, Anna, Tess, and Aliaka had a court date in room #6 in the General District Court Building downtown. They faced the heinous charges of “desecration of a monument” for having written in CHALK messages of peace, love and hope on the base of the Confederate monument opposite Commercial park (where the encampment had been.)Yes, you read that right: the messages were in chalk.
Their cases were dismissed. Nothing in their actions, as in the case of Carmen, Tess and Angela, rose to the level required by the definition required by the city statute.
So what you see at work is the same phenomenon at work in other places, that of the local police being enlisted to “crack down” on Occupy using trumped up charges. In Norfolk, the authorities are 0 for 4; the first set of cases for obstruction (Anita, Angela and Geoffrey) when the park was shut down were nolle prosequi’ed; Joelle’s arrest for trespassing, for simply sitting in the park, was dismissed; and both my daughter and colleagues’ case and the case described above were both dismissed.
One more court date remains, for a separate action on December 17. Ought to be interesting.
Update: The Truth About Violence at Occupy
I get a lot of crap from right wingers about supposed violence at Occupy gatherings. from first hand experience, I can say that I have never met such a fine and peaceable group of individuals. There are those, the younger, less patient “black bloc” crowd who want more confrontational direct action and to mask themselves, etc.
For my part I want them to know who I am, for better or for worse: I own a home, have raised a daughter, pay taxes and have had a career and a public life of sorts in this community, and I withhold consent from the entire rotten edifice of fixers and thugs.
In any event, it comes to this: a definitive look at the record of Occupy’s supposed record of lawlessness in the face of multiple police riots, by Rebecca Solnit, one of the most inteligent observers we have.
When you fall in love, it’s all about what you have in common, and you can hardly imagine that there are differences, let alone that you will quarrel over them, or weep about them, or be torn apart by them — or if all goes well, struggle, learn, and bond more strongly because of, rather than despite, them. The Occupy movement had its glorious honeymoon when old and young, liberal and radical, comfortable and desperate, homeless and tenured all found that what they had in common was so compelling the differences hardly seemed to matter.
Until they did.
Revolutions are always like this: at first all men are brothers and anything is possible, and then, if you’re lucky, the romance of that heady moment ripens into a relationship, instead of a breakup, an abusive marriage, or a murder-suicide. Occupy had its golden age, when those who never before imagined living side-by-side with homeless people found themselves in adjoining tents in public squares.
All sorts of other equalizing forces were present, not least the police brutality that battered the privileged the way that inner-city kids are used to being battered all the time. Part of what we had in common was what we were against: the current economy and the principle of insatiable greed that made it run, as well as the emotional and economic privatization that accompanied it.
This is a system that damages people, and its devastation was on display as never before in the early months of Occupy and related phenomena like the “We are the 99%” website. When it was people facing foreclosure, or who’d lost their jobs, or were thrashing around under avalanches of college or medical debt, they weren’t hard to accept as us, and not them.
And then came the people who’d been damaged far more, the psychologically fragile, the marginal, and the homeless — some of them endlessly needy and with a huge capacity for disruption. People who had come to fight the power found themselves staying on to figure out available mental-health resources, while others who had wanted to experience a democratic society on a grand scale found themselves trying to solve sanitation problems.
And then there was the violence.
The Faces of Violence
The most important direct violence Occupy faced was, of course, from the state, in the form of the police using maximum sub-lethal force on sleepers in tents, mothers with children, unarmed pedestrians, young women already penned up, unresisting seated students, poets, professors, pregnant women, wheelchair-bound occupiers and octogenarians. It has been a sustained campaign of police brutality from Wall Street to Washington State the likes of which we haven’t seen in 40 years.
On the part of activists, there were also a few notable incidents of violence in the hundreds of camps, especially violence against women. The mainstream media seemed to think this damned the Occupy movement, though it made the camps, at worst, a whole lot like the rest of the planet, which, in case you hadn’t noticed, seethes with violence against women. But these were isolated incidents.
That old line of songster Woody Guthrie is always handy in situations like this: “Some will rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen.” The police have been going after occupiers with projectile weapons, clubs and tear gas, sending some of them to the hospital and leaving more than a few others traumatized and fearful. That’s the six-gun here.
But it all began with the fountain pens, slashing through peoples’ lives, through national and international economies, through the global markets. These were wielded by the banksters, the “vampire squid,” the deregulators in D.C., the men — and with the rarest of exceptions they were men — who stole the world.
That’s what Occupy came together to oppose, the grandest violence by scale, the least obvious by impact. No one on Wall Street ever had to get his suit besmirched by carrying out a foreclosure eviction himself. Cities provided that service for free to the banks (thereby further impoverishing themselves as they created new paupers out of old taxpayers). And the police clubbed their opponents for them, over and over, everywhere across the United States.
The grand thieves invented ever more ingenious methods, including those sliced and diced derivatives, to crush the hopes and livelihoods of the many. This is the terrible violence that Occupy was formed to oppose. Don’t ever lose sight of that.
Oakland’s Beautiful Nonviolence
Now that we’re done remembering the major violence, let’s talk about Occupy Oakland. A great deal of fuss has been made about two incidents in which mostly young people affiliated with Occupy Oakland damaged some property and raised some hell.
The mainstream media and some faraway pundits weighed in on those Bay Area incidents as though they determined the meaning and future of the transnational Occupy phenomenon. Perhaps some of them even hoped, consciously or otherwise, that harped on enough these might divide or destroy the movement. So it’s important to recall that the initial impact of Occupy Oakland was the very opposite of violent, stunningly so, in ways that were intentionally suppressed.
Occupy Oakland began in early October as a vibrant, multiracial gathering. A camp was built at Oscar Grant/Frank Ogawa Plaza, and thousands received much-needed meals and healthcare for free from well-organized volunteers. Sometimes called the Oakland Commune, it was consciously descended from some of the finer aspects of an earlier movement born in Oakland, the Black Panthers, whose free breakfast programs should perhaps be as well-remembered and more admired than their macho posturing.
A compelling and generous-spirited General Assembly took place nightly and then biweekly in which the most important things on Earth were discussed by wildly different participants. Once, for instance, I was in a breakout discussion group that included Native American, white, Latino, and able-bodied and disabled Occupiers, and in which I was likely the eldest participant; another time, a bunch of peacenik grandmothers dominated my group.
This country is segregated in so many terrible ways — and then it wasn’t for those glorious weeks when civil society awoke and fell in love with itself. Everyone showed up; everyone talked to everyone else; and in little tastes, in fleeting moments, the old divides no longer divided us and we felt like we could imagine ourselves as one society. This was the dream of the promised land — this land, that is, without its bitter divides. Honey never tasted sweeter, and power never felt better.
Now here’s something astonishing. While the camp was in existence, crime went down 19 percent in Oakland, a statistic the city was careful to conceal. “It may be counter to our statement that the Occupy movement is negatively impacting crime in Oakland,” the police chief wrote to the mayor in an email that local news station KTVU later obtained and released to little fanfare. Pay attention: Occupy was so powerful a force for nonviolence that it was already solving Oakland’s chronic crime and violence problems just by giving people hope and meals and solidarity and conversation.
The police attacking the camp knew what the rest of us didn’t: Occupy was abating crime, including violent crime, in this gritty, crime-ridden city. “You gotta give them hope, “ said an elected official across the bay once upon a time — a city supervisor named Harvey Milk. Occupy was hope we gave ourselves, the dream come true. The city did its best to take the hope away violently at 5 a.m. on October 25th. The sleepers were assaulted; their belongings confiscated and trashed. Then, Occupy Oakland rose again. Many thousands of nonviolent marchers shut down the Port of Oakland in a stunning display of popular power on November 2nd.
That night, some kids did the smashy-smashy stuff that everyone gets really excited about. (They even spray-painted “smashy” on a Rite Aid drugstore in giant letters.) When we talk about people who spray-paint and break windows and start bonfires in the street and shove people and scream and run around, making a demonstration into something way too much like the punk rock shows of my youth, let’s keep one thing in mind: they didn’t send anyone to the hospital, drive any seniors from their homes, spread despair and debt among the young, snatch food and medicine from the desperate, or destroy the global economy.
That said, they are still a problem. They are the bait the police take and the media go to town with. They create a situation a whole lot of us don’t like and that drives away many who might otherwise participate or sympathize. They are, that is, incredibly bad for a movement, and represent a form of segregation by intimidation.
But don’t confuse the pro-vandalism Occupiers with the vampire squid or the up-armored robocops who have gone after us almost everywhere. Though their means are deeply flawed, their ends are not so different than yours. There’s no question that they should improve their tactics or maybe just act tactically, let alone strategically, and there’s no question that a lot of other people should stop being so apocalyptic about it.
Those who advocate for nonviolenceat Occupy should remember that nonviolence is at best a great spirit of love and generosity, not a prissy enforcement squad. After all, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who gets invoked all the time when such issues come up, didn’t go around saying grumpy things about Malcolm X and the Black Panthers.
Violence Against the Truth
Of course, a lot of people responding to these incidents in Oakland are actually responding to fictional versions of them. In such cases, you could even say that some journalists were doing violence against the truth of what happened in Oakland on November 2nd and January 28th.
The San Francisco Chronicle, for example, reported on the day’s events this way:
“Among the most violent incidents that occurred Saturday night was in front of the YMCA at 23rd Street and Broadway. Police corralled protesters in front of the building and several dozen protesters stormed into the Y, apparently to escape from the police, city officials and protesters said. Protesters damaged a door and a few fixtures, and frightened those inside the gym working out, said Robert Wilkins, president of the YMCA of the East Bay.”
Wilkins was apparently not in the building, and first-person testimony recounts that a YMCA staff member welcomed the surrounded and battered protesters, and once inside, some were so terrified they pretended to work out on exercise machines to blend in.
I wrote this to the journalists who described the incident so peculiarly: “What was violent about [activists] fleeing police engaging in wholesale arrests and aggressive behavior? Even the YMCA official who complains about it adds, ‘The damage appears pretty minimal.’ And you call it violence? That’s sloppy.”
The reporter who responded apologized for what she called her “poor word choice” and said the piece was meant to convey police violence as well.
When the police are violent against activists, journalists tend to frame it as though there were violence in some vaguely unascribable sense that implicates the clobbered as well as the clobberers. In, for example, the build-up to the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, the mainstream media kept portraying the right of the people peaceably to assemble as tantamount to terrorism and describing all the terrible things that the government or the media themselves speculated we might want to do (but never did).
Some of this was based on the fiction of tremendous activist violence in Seattle in 1999 that the New York Times in particular devoted itself to promulgating. That the police smashed up nonviolent demonstrators and constitutional rights pretty badly in both Seattle and New York didn’t excite them nearly as much. Don’t forget that before the obsession with violence arose, the smearing of Occupy was focused on the idea that people weren’t washing very much, and before that the framework for marginalization was that Occupy had “no demands.” There’s always something.
Keep in mind as well that Oakland’s police department is on the brink of federal receivership for not having made real amends for old and well-documented problems of violence, corruption and mismanagement, and that it was the police department, not the Occupy Oakland demonstrators, which used tear gas, clubs, smoke grenades and rubber bullets on January 28th. It’s true that a small group vandalized City Hall after the considerable police violence, but that’s hardly what the plans were at the outset of the day.
The action on January 28th that resulted in 400 arrests and a media conflagration was called Move-In Day. There was a handmade patchwork banner that proclaimed “Another Oakland Is Possible” and a children’s contingent with pennants, balloons and strollers. Occupy Oakland was seeking to take over an abandoned building so that it could reestablish the community, the food programs and the medical clinic it had set up last fall. It may not have been well planned or well executed, but it was idealistic.
Despite this, many people who had no firsthand contact with Occupy Oakland inveighed against it or even against the whole Occupy movement. If only that intensity of fury were to be directed at the root cause of it all, the colossal economic violence that surrounds us.
All of which is to say, for anyone who hadn’t noticed, that the honeymoon is over.
Now for the Real Work
The honeymoon is, of course, the period when you’re so in love you don’t notice differences that will eventually have to be worked out one way or another. Most relationships begin as though you were coasting downhill. Then come the flatlands, followed by the hills where you’re going to have to pedal hard, if you don’t just abandon the bike.
Occupy might just be the name we’ve put on a great groundswell of popular outrage and a rebirth of civil society too deep, too broad, to be a movement. A movement is an ocean wave: this is the whole tide turning from Cairo to Moscow to Athens to Santiago to Chicago. Nevertheless, the American swell in this tide involves a delicate alliance between liberals and radicals, people who want to reform the government and campaign for particular gains, and people who wish the government didn’t exist and mostly want to work outside the system. If the radicals should frighten the liberals as little as possible, surely the liberals have an equal obligation to get fiercer and more willing to confront — and to remember that nonviolence, even in its purest form, is not the same as being nice.
Surely the only possible answer to the tired question of where Occupy should go from here (as though a few public figures got to decide) is: everywhere. I keep being asked what Occupy should do next, but it’s already doing it. It is everywhere.
In many cities, outside the limelight, people are still occupying public space in tents and holding General Assemblies. February 20th, for instance, was a national day of Occupy solidarity with prisoners; Occupiers are organizing on many fronts and planning for May Day, and a great many foreclosure defenses from Nashville to San Francisco have kept people in their homes and made banks renegotiate. Campus activism is reinvigorated, and creative and fierce discussions about college costs and student debt are underway, as is a deeper conversation about economics and ethics that rejects conventional wisdom about what is fair and possible.
Occupy is one catalyst or facet of the populist will you can see in a host of recent victories. The campaign against corporate personhood seems to be gaining momentum. A popular environmental campaign made President Obama reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from Canada, despite immense Republican and corporate pressure. In response to widespread outrage, the Susan B. Komen Foundation reversed its decision to defund cancer detection at Planned Parenthood. Online campaigns have forced Apple to address its hideous labor issues, and the ever-heroic Coalition of Immokalee Workers at last brought Trader Joes into line with its fair wages for farmworkers campaign.
These genuine gains come thanks to relatively modest exercises of popular power. They should act as reminders that we do have power and that its exercise can be popular. Some of last fall’s exhilarating conversations have faltered, but the great conversation that is civil society awake and arisen hasn’t stopped.
What happens now depends on vigorous participation, including yours, in thinking aloud together about who we are, what we want and how we get there, and then acting upon it. Go occupy the possibilities and don’t stop pedaling. And remember, it started with mad, passionate love.
Taking another Page from FDRs Playbook, Obama-sama is now promoting hiring Unemployed Vets to rebuild trails, roads and levees on Public land, a sort of Civilian Conservation Corps redux. He proposes Printing $1B to hire 20,000 of the estimated 160,000 Active duty and 95,000 in this Worthy pursuit.
This gets the Headline and lead paragraphs in the attached story, but the real MEAT here is not in the “CCC”, but in the “COPS” program. He wants $4B for the “Community Oriented Policing Services” program. If he gets his Wish and if you assume quardruple the numbers here, this would hire 80,000 more COPS Nationally in the first year. I feel SAFER already, don’t you?
Yes, what we really need are 80,000 COPS recently discharged from the Killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan dressed in full Riot Gear keeping the peace at the National Political Conventions next year. Municipalities are Fresh Out of Scratch to hire more Cops, so the Feds will GIVE them the money, and who wants to bet me on which cities will get the first grants here? The ones holding the Conventions, that’s who. LOL.
Let’s do a little Math here though. If you sprinkle $4B at 80K COPS, that would be $50K per COP, but actually quite a bit less due to the Admin costs of the program. You know, all the Fed Goobermint Apparatchiks necessary to administer the program. Minimum, this takes 20% off the top here from the get go. So maybe you can pay the new COPS an average starting salary around $40K. However, to keep them on the Payroll next year, you gotta allocate the same amount of money. If you want to hire next year’s crew of Retiring International Killers, you’ll now need to double next year’s allocation to $8B. The most this gets you is a one year pop depressing the UE number of returning Vets, coincidentally in an Election year.
You can of course see how the Police State is being Evolved Up here. You don’t have to take Active Soldiers and put them on the streets, you take the EX-Soldiers currently UE and give them jobs as COPS! 80,000 New ones is a nice Expansion of the Gestapo, especially if you Deploy them in the particular Big Shities you are expecting Trouble Coming.
With the regular multi-Billion expenditures on everything else here, $4B for new COPS next year is a Drop in the Bucket of course. This money would also actually recirculate some in the economy, as said COPS would be off UE and able to pay Rent/Mortgage etc. Inthe grand scheme of things though, 80K COPS distributed out nationwide is a Drop in the Bucket, since local Police forces are laying off more than that number each year already. All it does is keep these police forces at somewhat Steady State for a short while. Eventually, as the Municipalities start filing for Bankruptcy, Da Federal Goobermint in order just to MAINTAIN the current level of Police “Protection” will have to pick up the WHOLE TAB, which of course is far more than $4B.
Running a Police State is a VERY expensive Bizness, as the Soviets found out. For Da Feds to just maintain current levels of COPS nationally in the Big Shities is probably at least a $100B/yr commitment to start, and will grow substantially as there is more Civil Unrest. helicopter Ben of course can Print at Will to fund this, but it’s sure not going to help the Deficit any. LOL.
I do expect that this little Intitiative will get passed by CONgress, since the Pols of course want to feel Safe eating their canapes at the Parties following the Convention activities of the day. The Police Presence at these Conventions is going to be absolutely OVERWHELMING. Every Park is going to have 1000 COPS assigned to it even BEFORE any OWSers show up. Wherever they do Congregate, the COPS will then redloy and SWARM around them. Every minor violation from Vagrancy to Littering will be STRICTLY enforced, Protesters will be Kettled and then shipped by Bus FAR out of town to Holding Pens to await Arraignment for a week or so due to “backlog” until the Pols are safely out of town.
Obviously, the only way this can be counteracted against would be through an equally overwhelming turnout of OWSers, in the Millions. It remains unclear as to whether OWS will be able to muster up such Numbers by then. I would guess it is probably unlikely though at this point, since not enough people are truly Starving yet as they are in places like Greece.
An alternative Plan which would require many fewer OWSers would be to use Vehicles, drive them into the towns and then clog up the whole roadway system. Buy $500 clunkers you can Abandon as necessary. However, Roadblocks may be established to keep this from occurring if TPTB get wind of such a Plan, which they certainly would since it would have to be organized up through the Social Networks.
Tactically speaking, as soon as you lose your Freedom of Assembly rights either explicitly or defacto, it becomes very difficult to engage in any kind of Mass Actions, even Non-Violent ones. This is going to be the major problem OWS will face in trying to get anything going at the Conventions.
—— Obama proposal for jobless vets includes effort resembling 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps
By Associated Press, Updated: Thursday, February 2, 9:09 PM WASHINGTON — In an effort to cut the unemployment rate among veterans, the Obama administration is calling for a new conservation program that would put veterans to work rebuilding trails, roads and levees on public lands.
The administration also will seek more grant money for programs that allow local communities to hire more police officers and firefighters.
.The efforts are particularly geared to those veterans who served after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a group experiencing an unemployment rate of 13.1 percent versus 8.1 percent for non-veterans.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the Civilian Conservation Corps that operated during the 1930s could be viewed as a model for what the administration will try to accomplish through its “Veterans Jobs Corps.” He said that the administration will propose spending $1 billion that would be used to put an estimated 20,000 veterans to work restoring habitat and eradicating invasive species, among other activities.
“When one looks back at the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps, we take great comfort that those who take on these kinds of activities will leave a lasting legacy for the United States,” Salazar said.
The backdrop of presidential politics is also playing a role in the Obama administration’s new efforts. Several states that will be heavily contested in November have a significant military presence. Veterans will be evaluating specific ways the next White House administration intends to help them.
Administration officials said the initiatives are focused on helping veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Communities that hire veterans to work as police and firefighters will be given preference in the grants competition. Obama will also seek to increase spending for the grants programs. He will propose an additional $4 billion for the Community Oriented Policing Services program, or COPS. He will propose an additional $1 billion for the firefighter grants.
The administration will also propose a training program designed to help veterans wanting to start their own small businesses.
With GOP lawmakers stressing the need to cut government spending, it remains to be seen how far the proposals will make it in a deeply divided Congress. Many conservatives have in the past voted to cut spending for the COPS program, while Obama is calling for a major expansion. Obama is expected to unveil his proposals Friday at an Arlington, Va., fire station that was one of the first to respond to the attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. Administration officials outlined the proposals in advance of his speech.
Congress also has been focusing on the problem of unemployment among veterans. A House subcommittee on Thursday examined the unemployment rate for those who serve in the National Guard or Reserves. Witnesses estimated that about 1 out of every 5 returning guardsmen is unemployed.
Theodore Daywalt, CEO and president of a jobs board called VetJobs, told lawmakers that veterans who totally separate from the military are for the most part finding work, even in today’s economic environment.
“But if a veteran remains active in the National Guard, they are having a difficult time finding meaningful employment due to the constant call-ups and deployment schedules,” Daywalt said in his written testimony.
Daywalt said some employers have become wary of hiring someone who is called up for as many as 24 months at a time. And the difficulty in finding work has led some guardsmen to volunteer for second or third deployments. He also predicted that the unemployment problem for guardsmen and reservists could get worse as the military downsizes because it will result in more competition when openings do occur.
About 160,000 soldiers leave active duty annually, and some 95,000 members of the National Guard and Reserves join them. The Labor Department already operates some jobs programs to help soldiers with the transition to civilian life. For example, there are employee workshops that help vets with advice on job searches and labor market conditions. The department also provides grants to states that in turn hire workers to conduct job training workshops and reach out to employers on behalf of vets.